Grow Clovers not Weeds

Grow Clovers not Weeds

I don’t know about you but I’m getting excited about planting cool season food plots!  Now is the time to get those soil samples tested and start planning for this upcoming hunting season.  Once we get our soil pH adjusted and our forages chosen, we need to turn our attention to weed management.  There’s nothing more disappointing than growing weeds instead of what we planted.

up close clovers

Clover Food Plot
Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

A simple strategy is to start with a burn down treatment with a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate.  This is a safe and effective way to kill most everything growing in the food plot area.  We want to apply the burn down treatment 2-4 weeks prior to planting.  This will allow sufficient time for the herbicide to move into the plants and kill them.

Next step is preparing the seedbed.  If the site is very weed infested, you may switch up these first two steps.  Till first and wait a few weeks for new plants to emerge, then burn down weeds that emerge with a non-selective herbicide.  Either way, we want a clean seedbed to plant into.

Next comes planting our desired forages.  Remember that weed control becomes more difficult when we mix broadleaf plants with grasses.  It’s not impossible however.  Planting rate has a lot to do with weed control.  If our planting rate is too low, we allow spaces for weeds to establish.  Plant forages using the upper end of the seeding rate to help control weeds.

Follow up weed control options will depend on the planted forages, weeds growing and forage growth stage.  We can use strategies such as mowing, selective herbicides and weed wiping with non-selective herbicides.  When planting just clovers, you can refer to the following publication for chemical control options, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/wg214.  When planting small grains, 2,4-D and dicamba are good options for broadleaf weeds.  These need to be applied when small grains have fully tillered but have not jointed.  We get better weed control when we apply herbicides to younger weeds.  Weed wiping is a great option when weeds are taller than the desired forage.  Here’s a good publication on weed wiper technology and use – https://www.noble.org/globalassets/docs/ag/pubs/soils/nf-so-11-06.pdf.

For help identifying weeds and control strategies, contact your local county extension office.

Controlling Cogongrass

Controlling Cogongrass

flowering cogongrass patch

Cogongrass flowering

We’re waging war on an invasive weed, Cogongrass.  Cogongrass was accidently brought into Mobile, Alabama in the early 1900’s as packing material.  It was later planted in Florida and other states as a potential forage and soil stabilizer.  It has low forage value and is on the Federal Noxious Weed List.

This weed can spread through both creeping rhizomes and seeds.  It quickly displaces desirable grasses and plants.  The roots of Cogongrass may produce allelopathic chemicals helping it out-compete other plants for space.  It is drought and shade tolerant.  A single plant can produce 3,000 seeds.  Cogongrass is yellow/green in color with an off-set midrib and a fluffy white seed head and it grows in circular colonies.

Mowing and burning will not eradicate Cogongrass instead doing so while the plants are flowering can cause spread of seeds.  Herbicide options are non-selective and kill most native ground cover such as grasses.  Ridding an area of a Cogongrass infestation requires intensive management.  For small infestations (less than 20-30 feet in diameter), treat the area with glyphosate once in the fall and once in the spring for 3 years (or until eradicated).  For larger infestations, a more integrated approach may be necessary.  Deep tilling of the soil may help in some cases.

Cogongrass is not easy to control.  It takes a coordinated effort from government agencies and private landowners to work together to rid an area of this invasive weed.  For more information, you can go to https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg202 or contact your local extension agent.

Six Rivers CISMA Dirty Dozen Invasive Species – Cogongrass

Six Rivers CISMA Dirty Dozen Invasive Species – Cogongrass

Six Rivers “Dirty Dozen” Invasive Species

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica)

A relatively new patch of cogongrass recently found in Washington County.
Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

 

Define Invasive Species: must have all of the following –

  • Is non-native to the area, in our case northwest Florida
  • Introduced by humans, whether intentional or accidental
  • Causing either an environmental or economic problem, possibly both

Define “Dirty Dozen” Species:

These are species that are well established within the CISMA and are considered, by members of the CISMA, to be one of the top 12 worst problems in our area.

 

Native Range:

Cogongrass is from southeast Asia.

 

Introduction:

It was accidentally introduced as an “escapee” from satsuma crates brought to Grand Bay, Alabama in 1912.  It was later intentionally introduced into Mississippi in the 1920s as a forage crop and then to Florida in the 1930s for both forage and soil stabilization.

 

EDDMapS currently list 79,134 records of this plant.  All are listed in the southeastern U.S.  Most are in Florida and Alabama, but there are records from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, North and South Carolina.

Within our CISMA there are 13,279 records.  This is probably underreported.

 

Description:

Cogongrass is a perennial grass that can vary in color from a bright-light green when young to a brown-orange when older.  It does die back in areas with cold winters and heavy frost and becomes brown.  The leaves emerge from the ground in clumps and can reach four feet in height.  The blades are 0.5-0.75 inches wide and the light-colored midline is off center.  The blades are serrated along the edge.  In the spring the grass produces large white colored fluffs of seeds extending above the leaves to be carried by the wind.  There are numerous small seeds joined on long hairs of these structures.  There is an extensive rhizome system beneath the ground that can contribute to short distance spread.

 

Issues and Impacts:

The plant spreads aggressively and has been found in ditches, along roadsides, in pastures, timberlands, golf courses, empty lots, and even on barrier islands.  It spreads both by seed wind dispersal and rhizome fragmentation.  The plant is known to be allelopathic, desiccating neighboring plants and moving in.  It can form dense monocultures in many areas.

The serrated edges of the leaves make it undesirable as a livestock forage, a fact not detected until the plant was established.  It can cover large areas of pasture making it unusable.  In the winter the plant becomes brown and can burn very hot.  Timberland that has been infested with cogongrass can burn too hot during prescribed burns actually killing the trees.

It is currently listed as one of the most invasive plants in the United States.  It is a federal and state noxious weed, it is prohibited all across Florida and has a high invasion risk.

 

Management:

The key to controlling this plant is destroying the extensive rhizome system.  Simple disking has been shown to be effective if you dig during the dry season, when the rhizomes can dry out, and if you disk deep enough to get all of the rhizomes.  Though the rhizomes can be found as deep as four feet, most are within six inches and at least a six-inch disking is recommended.

 

Chemical treatments have had some success.  Prometon (Pramitol), tebuthurion (Spike), and imazapyr have all had some success along roadsides and in ditches.  However, the strength of these chemicals will impede new growth, or plantings of new plants, for up to six months.  This can lead to erosion issues that are undesirable.  Glyphosate has been somewhat successful, and its short soil life will allow the planting of new plants immediately.  Due to this however, it may take multiple treatments over multiple years to keep cogongrass under control and it will kill other plants if sprayed during treatment.

 

Most recommend a mixture of burning, disking, and chemical treatment.  Disking and burning should be conducted in the summer to remove thatch and all older and dead cogongrass.  As new shoots emerge in late summer and early fall herbicides can then be used to kill the young plants.  Studies and practice have found complete eradication is difficult.  It is also recommended not to attempt any management while in seed (in spring).  Tractors, mowers, etc. can collect the seeds and, when the mowers are moved to new locations, spread the problem.  If all mowing/disking equipment can be cleaned after treatment – this is highly recommended.

 

For more information on this Dirty Dozen species, contact your local extension office.

 

References

Cogongrass, University of Florida IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

https://plants-archive.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/imperata-cylindrica/

 

Imperata cylindrica. University of Florida IFAS Assessment.

https://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/assessments/imperata-cylindrica/.

 

Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS)

https://www.eddmaps.org/

 

Six Rivers CISMA

https://www.floridainvasives.org/sixrivers/

Pretty Face with a Bad Attitude:  The Invasive Chinese Tallow

Pretty Face with a Bad Attitude: The Invasive Chinese Tallow

The native Florida landscape definitely isn’t known for its fall foliage.  But as you might have noticed, there is one species that reliably turns shades of red, orange, yellow and sometimes purple, it also unfortunately happens to be one of the most significant pest plant species in North America, the highly invasive Chinese Tallow or Popcorn Tree (Triadica sebifera).

Chinese Tallow fall foliage. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

Native to temperate areas of China and introduced into the United States by Benjamin Franklin (yes, the Founding Father!) in 1776 for its seed oil potential and outstanding ornamental attributes, Chinese Tallow is indeed a pretty tree, possessing a tame smallish stature, attractive bark, excellent fall color and interesting white “popcorn” seeds.  In addition, Chinese Tallow’s climate preferences make it right at home in the Panhandle and throughout the Southeast.  It requires no fertilizer, is both drought and inundation tolerant, is both sun and shade tolerant, has no serious pests, produce seed preferred by wildlife (birds mostly) and is easy to propagate from seed (a mature

Chinese Tallow tree can produce up to 100,000 seeds annually!).  While these characteristics indeed make it an awesome landscape plant and explain it being passed around by early American colonists, they are also the very reasons that make the species is one of the most dangerous invasives – it can take over any site, anywhere.

While Chinese Tallow can become established almost anywhere, it prefers wet, swampy areas and waste sites.  In both settings, the species’ special adaptations allow it a competitive advantage over native species and enable it to eventually choke the native species out altogether.

In low-lying wetlands, Chinese Tallow’s ability to thrive in both extreme wet and droughty conditions enable it to grow more quickly than the native species that tend to flourish in either one period or the other.  In river swamps, cypress domes and other hardwood dominated areas, Chinese Tallow’s unique ability to easily grow in the densely shaded understory allows it to reach into the canopy and establish a foothold where other native hardwoods cannot.  It is not uncommon anymore to venture into mature swamps and cypress domes and see hundreds or thousands of Chinese Tallow seedlings taking over the forest understory and encroaching on larger native tree species.  Finally, in waste areas, i.e. areas that have been recently harvested of trees, where a building used to be, or even an abandoned field, Chinese Tallow, with its quick germinating, precocious nature, rapidly takes over and then spreads into adjacent woodlots and natural areas.

Chinese tallow seedlings colonizing a “waste” area. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

Hopefully, we’ve established that Chinese Tallow is a species that you don’t want on your property and has no place in either landscapes or natural areas.  The question now is, how does one control Chinese Tallow?

  • Prevention is obviously the first option. NEVER purposely plant Chinese Tallow and do not distribute the seed, even as decorations, as they are sometimes used.
  • The second method is physical removal. Many folks don’t have a Chinese Tallow in their yard, but either their neighbors do, or the natural area next door does.  In this situation, about the best one can do is continually pull up the seedlings once they sprout.  If a larger specimen in present, cut it down as close to the ground as possible.  This will make herbicide application and/or mowing easier.
  • The best option in many cases is use of chemical herbicides. Both foliar (spraying green foliage on smaller saplings) and basal bark applications (applying a herbicide/oil mixture all the way around the bottom 15” of the trunk. Useful on larger trees or saplings in areas where it isn’t feasible to spray leaves) are effective.  I’ve had good experiences with both methods.  For small trees, foliar applications are highly effective and easy.  But, if the tree is taller than an average person, use the basal bark method.  It is also very effective and much less likely to have negative consequences like off-target herbicide drift and applicator exposure.  Finally, when browsing the herbicide aisle garden centers and farm stores, look for products containing the active ingredient Triclopyr, the main chemical in brands like Garlon, Brushtox, and other “brush/tree & stump killers”.  Mix at label rates for control.

Despite its attractiveness, Chinese Tallow is an insidious invader that has no place in either landscapes or natural areas.  But with a little persistence and a quality control plan, you can rid your property of Chinese Tallow!  For more information about invasive plant management and other agricultural topics, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office!

References:

Langeland, K.A, and S. F. Enloe.  2018.  Natural Area Weeds: Chinese Tallow (Sapium sebiferum L.).  Publication #SS-AGR-45.  Printer friendly PDF version: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AG/AG14800.pdf 

Overcup Oak – The Best Native Landscape Tree You’ve Never Seen

Overcup Oak – The Best Native Landscape Tree You’ve Never Seen

Overcup on the edge of a wet weather pond in Calhoun County. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

Haunting alluvial river bottoms and creek beds across the Deep South, is a highly unusual oak species, Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata).  Unlike nearly any other oak, and most sane people, Overcups occur deep in alluvial swamps and spend most of their lives with their feet wet.   Though the species hides out along water’s edge in secluded swamps, it has nevertheless been discovered by the horticultural industry and is becoming one of the favorite species of landscape designers and nurserymen around the South.  The reasons for Overcup’s rise are numerous, let’s dive into them.

The same Overcup Oak thriving under inundation conditions 2 weeks after a heavy rain. Photo courtesy Daniel Leonard.

First, much of the deep South, especially in the Coastal Plain, is dominated by poorly drained flatwoods soils cut through by river systems and dotted with cypress and blackgum ponds.  These conditions call for landscape plants that can handle hot, humid air, excess rainfall, and even periodic inundation (standing water).  It stands to reason our best tree options for these areas, Sycamore, Bald Cypress, Red Maple, and others, occur naturally in swamps that mimic these conditions.  Overcup Oak is one of these hardy species.  It goes above and beyond being able to handle a squishy lawn, and is often found inundated for weeks at a time by more than 20’ of water during the spring floods our river systems experience.  The species has even developed an interested adaptation to allow populations to thrive in flooded seasons.  Their acorns, preferred food of many waterfowl, are almost totally covered by a buoyant acorn cap, allowing seeds to float downstream until they hit dry land, thus ensuring the species survives and spreads.  While it will not survive perpetual inundation like Cypress and Blackgum, if you have a periodically damp area in your lawn where other species struggle, Overcup will shine.

Overcup Oak leaves in August. Note the characteristic “lyre” shape. Photo courtesy Daniel Leonard.

Overcup Oak is also an exceedingly attractive tree.  In youth, the species is extremely uniform, with a straight, stout trunk and rounded “lollipop” canopy.  This regular habit is maintained into adulthood, where it becomes a stately tree with a distinctly upturned branching habit, lending itself well to mowers and other traffic underneath without having to worry about hitting low-hanging branches.  The large, lustrous green leaves are lyre-shaped if you use your imagination (hence the name, Quercus lyrata) and turn a not-unattractive yellowish brown in fall.  Overcups especially shine in the winter when the whitish gray shaggy bark takes center stage.  The bark is very reminiscent of White Oak or Shagbark Hickory and is exceedingly pretty relative to other landscape trees that can be successfully grown here.

Finally, Overcup Oak is among the easiest to grow landscape trees.  We have already discussed its ability to tolerate wet soils and our blazing heat and humidity, but Overcups can also tolerate periodic drought, partial shade, and nearly any soil pH.  They are long-lived trees and have no known serious pest or disease problems.  They transplant easily from standard nursery containers or dug from a field (if it’s a larger specimen), making establishment in the landscape an easy task.  In the establishment phase, defined as the first year or two after transplanting, young transplanted Overcups require only a weekly rain or irrigation event of around 1” (wetter areas may not require any supplemental irrigation) and bi-annual applications of a general purpose fertilizer, 10-10-10 or similar.  After that, they are generally on their own without any help!

Typical shaggy bark on 7 year old Overcup Oak. Photo courtesy Daniel Leonard.

If you’ve been looking for an attractive, low-maintenance tree for a pond bank or just generally wet area in your lawn or property, Overcup Oak might be your answer.  For more information on Overcup Oak, other landscape trees and native plants, give your local UF/IFAS County Extension office a call!

What Are The Wildlife Up To This Summer?

What Are The Wildlife Up To This Summer?

As hunters and wildlife enthusiasts we tend to focus on wildlife behavior and biology during hunting season but tend to forget about them during the summer months.  But the summer months are very important to our population numbers.  Hunting season includes mating season, but now the babies are hitting the ground and the real fun is in full swing.

Whitetail deer are busy growing the new crop of fawns and growing antlers (for the bucks).  Bucks lose their antlers in the spring after rut and grow new ones this time of year.  For the most part, bucks grow bigger antlers each year until they peak around age 5-6.  Several factors enter into antler growth including age, genetics and nutrition.  You can’t change age or genetics easily but you can supply good nutrition as they are growing new antlers right now.  The added nutrition will also help the does that are fawning and nursing those fawns right now.

Wild turkey hens are busy raising their poults alone.  They breed and nest in the spring each year.  It only takes about 28 days of sitting on the nest for the eggs to hatch.  The poults are learning how to eat and groom themselves as well as how to roost and get away from predators.  Poults that have survived to this point have a good chance of making it to adulthood.  They will rejoin the larger population in the fall.

Warm season supplemental nutrition provides food sources when population numbers are at their highest.  Deer are nutritionally stressed due to antler growth and fawn rearing.  Turkey hens are finding places to feed their poults.  This supplemental nutrition can come in the form of grains provided in wildlife feeders or in food plots.  Food plots during the warm season are an underutilized nutrition source.  We can grow many highly nutritious forage crops for wildlife during the summer.  Some great choices include millet (brown top, pearl, dove proso), sunn hemp, clay peas, cowpeas, hairy indigo, perennial peanut, Aeschynomene Americana, alyceclover and more.

Warm Season Food Plots for White tailed deer publication

For more information about warm season wildlife food plots contact your local extension agent.