Cheatgrass Control Methods – Herbicides vs. Bacteria

What can I do with this unwanted noxious annual grass? Plow it up, graze it off, or burn it. Where it takes over, it can burn fast and hot destroying the native grass and shrub ecosystem. Then cheatgrass comes back with a vengeance, after eliminating native competitors. Cheatgrass control methods vary but the elimination of cheatgrass is a long-drawn-out process, taking years to bring back the native species.Native Plant Eco Systems

Cheatgrass control methods include IPM (Integrated Pest Management), and the use of herbicides. Herbicides that are sold by chemical companies are used in conjunction with IPM methods to try to control cheatgrass (downy brome) to enhance the native perennial grasses and shrubs.

Plateau Herbicide

Plateau (imazapic) is one of the herbicides used in the cheatgrass control methods. The idea is to spray the cheatgrass in the Fall shortly before it germinates and begins its growing cycle, as a young winter annual grass. Plateau acts in this way as a pre-emergent herbicide. Adequate moisture in the soil is needed for optimum herbicide activity. In the Fall, even the lightest application of 6 oz. of plateau makes close to a 100% difference in the Spring.

There are some Spring applications, as a post emergent using plateau and glyphosate, with few good results. There are many treatment options with herbicides and timing methods but there has been a lot of research already done, this research is there to take advantage of and it is readily available on the internet, It’s time-consuming to read and study but well worth the effort. You may come up with a totally different approach to cheatgrass control that may really make a difference.Native Plant Eco Systems

Plateau can also help in planting back to native species. The amount of Plateau used will vary depending on amount of rainfall (moisture), type of soil (coarse or clay) and how much old cheatgrass thatch is in the area when applying this herbicide. If, the thatch is so thick sometimes it is better to burn off the cheatgrass or use grazing to thin out this layer of thatch before applying herbicide. This allows the herbicide to reach the soil. Also, if there is growing cheatgrass it may be worth using a light application of glyphosate added to the imazopic (plateau) plus a good surfactant. If just using plateau as a pre-emergent you do not want to use any surfactant. Where surfactant is used and there are perennial grasses and shrubs it has been shown to set them back. This is why it is important to put your pre-emergents on before or soon after the annual grasses germinate.

Plateau has zero grazing restriction, it won’t hurt any livestock or wildlife that is grazing there. Keep in mind it does needs to go into the soil to stop germinating annual grasses in the Fall. There are always IPM measures you can use to cut the amount of herbicide spray you use if applicable. The more you read and learn the better your success will be and the more you will get from the time you invest in the application process.

Plateau would work well on medusahead grass too. Just to let you know if you have a jointed goatgrass problem, Plateau does not list it on the label. Don’t use it for that.

Esplanade EZ Herbicide

Is a relatively new herbicide for treatment of problem annual grasses, mainly used in right-of-way applications. It has residual in the soil, works as a pre-emergent lasting about 2-3 years for cheatgrass. Plateau herbicide lasts about 1 year. You get results on cheatgrass that can last up to 8 months. It is a non-selective herbicide, that acts as a pre-emergent and post emergent. Active ingredients are Indaziflam(0.089%), Diquat dibromide(0.890%) and Glyphosate(20.460%). The rest are inert ingredients.Native Plant Eco Systems

Specticle is another herbicide made by Bayer that has Indaziflam as the active ingredient. This herbicide is used as a pre-emegent on golf courses, it is also the main ingredient used in annual grass control which cheatgrass is one. It wouldn’t surprise me that they will be using this on rangeland for the control of cheatgrass.

Always Read the Label. Keep this herbicide away from water.

Glyphosate Herbicide

Glyphosate has been around for a long time and is used post-emergent in controlling all unwanted vegetation. In the treatment of cheatgrass it can be used along with Plateau to treat any already emerged grasses or weeds. With a light dose of glyphosate you can control the emerged cheatgrass and get by with stunting the good perennial vegetation.

If the native grasses are dormant when spraying cheatgrass you will save the good grasses. In the Fall, if cheatgrass is emerged and starting to grow, this would be a time to add glyphosate at a low dose/acre to kill the emerging cheatgrass. This is done with plateau added for a pre-emergent. Also, you would use a surfactant if needed. (Use at the cost of burning some good vegetation).

Lambient Herbicide

This is a new herbicide, just came out and on the market. Lambient is a post emergent herbicide used on native rangeland, pastures and CPR acres for cheatgrass and other weeds. Make sure you check to make sure which grasses are tolerant to this herbicide. You need to always use a good surfactant like dynamic. Read the Label. Do not apply this herbicide directly to water.

For a single application apply spring of fall, 1.2oz/acre per year + a surfactant. Apply when plants are actively growing for annual grasses including cheatgrass. If, you have a lot of other broadleaf in your native grass then you can add another compatible herbicide.Cheatgrass Eco Systems

IPM the Natural Way to Go

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is all the different ways that we can personally help in the control of noxious pests, which includes weeds, in this blog particularly cheatgrass. These are a few of the ways that we can help:

  • Cleaning equipment before moving it to a different area.
  • Irrigating to favor perennial vegetation.
  • Fertilizing with nitrogen makes cheatgrass really grow. On rangeland in the west a lot of the native perennial plants require little nitrogen fertilizer. Some studies and research are being done on adding different amendments that deplete nitrogen levels in the soil, like wood mulch. Thus stressing cheatgrass growth.
  • Fire is sometimes used to deplete the layer of thatch caused by cheatgrass. This opens the soil surface so a pre-emergent herbicide can make contact with the soil. More often it benefits the cheatgrass more than the perennial plants.
  • Discing a couple times in the spring helps prevent the cheatgrass from going to seed. Saving the soil nutrients and moisture for the perennial grasses.
  • Plowing the cheatgrass seeds under to a depth greater than 4-6 inches keeps the seeds from emerging from the soil.
  • Using grazing to reduce seed production.

Bacteria New for Cheatgrass Control

Biopesticide (Pseudomonas fluorescens), a strain of bacteria that feeds on the roots of cheatgrass, lasts in the soil for 3 to 5 years and doesn’t cause any damage to native plants. It is still in the study and research stage, hopefully soon, range managers will be able to start making applications. These Bacteria has been shown to work on only annual grasses (downy brome, medusahead, and jointed goatgrass). It loves cold weather, if applied in the fall it multiplies through the winter months and attacks the roots of the annual grasses in the spring. It lasts in the soil for 3 to 5 years. The cheatgrass seeds verily last more than 2 to 3 years. The first year you won’t tell much difference but the next few years should make a big difference. In the mean time re-seed with native perennial grasses and shrubs to help restore our native ecosystem.Puma Eco Systems

This last sound too good to be true. In 2013, it was said they needed at least 5 more years of testing and research. Its 2018 now, maybe it will go on the market soon.

Programs that Deliver Results

I added a few native vegetation pictures instead of cheatgrass, also a big mountain lion caught with my dogs a few years back. It was a beautiful day with new snow, everything perfect for a great picture, then we gathered the hounds and went home. The cat also went on his way.

I hope this would be a learning and sharing process for all of  us that are interested, in the control of these annual grasses. Please leave your comments and thoughts, we will all appreciate your ideas, suggestions comments and experiences of what has worked for you.

My email: leal@sprayersedge.com

Thanks and the Best




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