Hi! We moved to a new farm this winter, and just realized this spring that about 10 acres have been totally taken over by Johnsongrass. About 8 of those acres are an unfenced lot, 1 makes up the majority of 2 goat paddocks, and 1 is the area behind the chicken coop. I really want to get rid of it because it's choking out EVERYTHING, so there's no diversity at all in those areas.
It seems everyone I've talked to says either learn to live with it or spray it with herbicides. I really don't want to do the latter, and I don't want a pasture that only has ONE grass or weed. Lots of people say it makes good forage but we've got one paddock that is weedy, but has a lot of different weeds, and the goats like that one a lot better. I know I wouldn't want to eat one thing all day everyday...
I've heard if you mow it every 2 weeks all season, for a few years it'll eventually "give up" and die. But that just seems like so much work, time, and gas spent on something that's not really productive... This year we did mow it when it first came up, then a couple weeks ago before it went to seed. We're so busy though I think it would be hard to keep up with it more, and with our little tractor it ends up taking half the day to do.
What I'd really like to do is restore all of it to native pasture (bluestem, indian grass, switch grass, coneflowers, sunflowers, and the like), but it seems they're hard to establish if you have a lot of competition from weeds. So, I was thinking maybe sow that area with more aggressive annual grasses or even crops that could out compete the johnsongrass? Then after a few years of that it might be weakened enough that the native grasses could establish themselves? Does that seem like it would work? What would you plant and how? We're in a drought and we're already watching how much water we use so it can't really be irrigated. We've got stony clay soil.
And do you know of any other ways to deal with it?
Johnsongrass is only problem forage under two circumstances: (a) it has had a high application of nitrogen fertilizer or (b) it was subject to a frost and is starting to grow back. Both of these conditions cause it to convert nitrogen into prussic acid, otherwise known as cyanide. If you pay attention to not feed it under these conditions, you shouldn't have a problem. Incidentally, if you cut it and dry it for hay, any prussic acid that was present is going to go away in the drying process.
My guinea pigs LOVE their Johnsongrass and kudzu when I feed it to them, those are two of their favorite foods. Now where can I find places overrun with Johnsongrass and kudzu in Georgia
Sorry it took me so long to get back, been busy...
Wayne, I thought about that as far as tilling. I've read if you till in late fall/early winter, right before a hard freeze, it'll kill the rhizomes. But I wouldn't want to do that then end up with a bigger problem in spring....then again I'm not sure it could get worse than it is now maybe we'll just try a small area this year, and see how it works out. Then even if we did totally screw up it wouldn't be a huge setback.
Duane, I think if I did that I'd end up with a secondary business as a hawk farmer lol
I have heard pigs (the non-guinea kind) will get rid of it, because they root up the rhizomes and eat them. I actually have been wanting to get some hogs so that actually might work.....
We had the worst winter in years. We broke a record for the most freezing days ever. Granted it's TX an it was 17 to 32 degree days for 1 to 3 days at a time. That record season is when I planted the pecans that resulted in the growth spurt
Mowing/grazing on a monthly basis or more during the growing process will reduce its hold. Adding native hardy grasses, Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, will start to allow some diversity. These grasses are in balance with the ecosystem and will force out some of the Johnson grass and in turn opening new holes for other plants to take hold. During grazing/mowing, do not fertilize at all, to stress the Johnson grass.
What about mimic a prairie fire and do a prescribed burn of a large section and see what happens. You would not be tilling the soil and the fire certainly would burn off the top, not sure what it does for what's under the soil surface. But, I know fires are part of the prairie ecosystem at times. This idea could be way out of line, I don't know, but it popped into my head and I thought I'd share it. Of course, a prescribed burn does take coordination and collaboration with your local fire department.