Hello, Slowly over this growing season a type of grass is taking over my 2...

Asked July 26, 2018, 8:45 AM EDT

Hello, Slowly over this growing season a type of grass is taking over my 2 small horse pastures. This grass has been present in small qualities for several years but is growing like crazy now. The horses do not eat it and I fear if I allow it to continue I will not have a pasture at all. My concern is getting rid of it without damaging the rest of the pasture. I keep my pastures mowed, every few years I will hand seed and fertilize. I have used pasture pro with a hand sprayer to spot treat certain areas a few times over the last 10 years. Last year I applied it to one entire pasture. This is the pasture with the biggest problem. Could that have been the cause? I do not have access to large farm equipment to till and start over. What is this grass and how do I get rid of it safely? I have uploaded a picture to aid in identification. Please help. Thank You. Barbara.

Carroll County Ohio pastures and forages pasture management

1 Response

Hi Barbara,

From this photo, it looks like the grass you are referring to is crabgrass. Judging also by your description, crabgrass would thrive in the conditions of your pasture. The good news is that crabgrass is not harmful to horses.

Here is a factsheet about crabgrass as forage: https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-3138.pdf.

It actually has pretty good nutritive value and it is tolerant of close grazing and foot traffic. I am surprised that your horses are not eating it. It should taste pretty good.

If you could send another photo at higher quality that would be helpful. If you could dig up a whole plant, shake the soil off, and take a picture of the entire plant from root to tip, that would also be helpful. Can you describe the growth habit?

Crabgrass is a warm-season annual grass. That means it dies after frost and grows back from seed the following year. Usually you will start seeing crabgrass take off in late May or early June when the soil temperature heats up and the air temperature is consistently in the 80s. Crabgrass spreads by stolons, so when you pull up a plant, you may find creeping stems with roots on them.

Crabgrass takeover is a symptom of other problems that could include overgrazing the pastures (very common for horses-when you say your pastures are small, how small?), poor fertility (have you done a soil test?), or poor water access (too much or too little).

If you really want to remove crabgrass from your pasture, you would need to correct the underlying issues mentioned above, treat the entire stand with a herbicide, and then reseed. The herbicides that kill crabgrass will also kill other grasses (orchardgrass, blugrass, timothy).

What may work better in your situation is seeding additional desired grasses into the pasture in early spring, with the hope being that they would provide more competition against crabgrass.

Then, keep the horses off of the pasture while those newly planted grasses establish. Allowing them to graze new seedlings will result in poor root growth. Leading to poor leaf growth and eventually seedling death. That would leave you in the same situation you are in now.

Before taking action, please send additional photos of the grass, photos of the whole pasture, and consider doing a soil test.

Christine