I never thought it would happen, but there I was on Labor Day, sitting on my tractor, pulling my little sickle-bar mower around my pasture. Was I cutting hay? No – I was cutting weeds!
I’ve prided myself in keeping my pastures thick and vigorous enough to compete with weeds, but this year they got the best of me. Common ragweed was the worst, but gumweed and even ironweed, which I thought I had nearly eradicated from my pastures, also were abundant. Why were the weeds so thick this year? The grass was thick and heavy all spring and early summer because of all the rain we received. That should have at least kept the annual ragweed down. I have well over a dozen paddocks in my pasture. And weeds were bad in all but three of them. Two of the three paddocks were those I cut for swath grazing; the third was my warm-season grass paddock. I do have a theory as to why the weeds were bad, but mind you, it’s only my theory. I suspect that weeds grew where cattle hooves cut into or compressed the wet sod last spring, especially if the grass had already been grazed. I think this because the three clean paddocks were not grazed during this wet period, except one of the swath grazed paddocks that was grazed for about a day when I failed to connect the electric fence to keep them out. And that paddock does have some weeds, especially in one corner where the animals gathered. No matter whether my theory is right or wrong, now I’m cutting weeds so they won’t go to seed and make things worse in future years.
And feeling a bit more humble. Live and learn.
[September 9th, 2008]
Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE