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Eliminating Unwanted Woody Weeds from Pastures in the Winter
Ohio Ag Connection - 02/15/2024

When you look at your pastures this winter do you see nice clean pastures, or do you see multiflora rose and unwanted scrub trees reminding you that they are not going away. Controlling undesirable woody plants such as multiflora rose, honey locust, autumn olive, and ailanthus can improve your pastures by reducing competition for nutrients, saving on flat tire repair, and reducing the number of lame animals from thorns. A 2005 report by D. Pimentel et al. from Cornell estimated invasive weeds in pastures in the United States cost 1 billion dollars a year in losses and damages. I can only imagine how high that number would be now, almost 20 years later. Weed control is a never-ending war but even in the winter you can win some battles. Acting now, while plants are dormant, can be very effective at eliminating woody perennial plants while minimizing damage to non-target plants.


Control by cutting or pulling when the ground is not frozen can be accomplished during winter. This can provide instant gratification since the results are immediate. Persistence in the future will be important with mechanical methods since roots that may remain in the ground are often able to generate new plants.


Winter often provides a little more free time to do projects like weed control. During winter, grass in the pasture is probably short and even small multiflora rose plants, autumn olive, or honey locust trees that have been mowed for multiple years are easy to spot. There are several herbicides labeled for use for woody plants, and each has advantages and disadvantages. During the winter a basal bark treatment or a cut stump treatment can be very effective at helping control woody plants. These methods, when used on dormant plants, allow small targeted applications of herbicides to specific parts of the plant instead of widespread foliar treatments. Targeted treatments can reduce the potential damage to non-target plants. Often, we think of these dormant season treatments as a way to improve woodlots, but they can also be very effective at eliminating saplings in a pasture that have been mowed off but just won’t go away. The spray equipment needed is small, and the expense of the equipment is minimal. A backpack sprayer with a long wand is a good option, but even a one-gallon handheld sprayer can work.

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