There are many different types of plant species found in the average farm pasture, which are deemed a pest a to farmer. But what is the best way of controlling them? Keep reading and find out!
Rushes - Probably the most common of grassland species, the soft rush is the most common of all rush species. It is generally found on wetter, marshier lands in need of drainage. After the recent bad weather over the first three months of the year, many grasslands have succumbed to the rushes, though there are ways of controlling them.
One way is to bale them, as suggested by us here. Rush bales make for great bedding and after this year’s fodder crisis, it is always good to have backup options. This though, is not a way of controlling rushes, rather temporarily ridding yourself of the problem. They can be controlled using chemicals such as MCPA and 24-D, which should be applied in June or July. Any stronger rushes should be topped first, with pesticides then applied. These chemicals will also hinder grass growth, so careful application is advised. This can only be used by farmers not in GLAS though, and for farmers who are in GLAS, chemical control by spot spraying and weed wiping are the only options.
Another method of control is improving your soils fertility and drainage. These are two definite ways of ridding rushes for the longer term and are the root of the problem to begin with.
Dock Leaves - Another very common problem in Irish pastures, the Dock leaf can survive for over 50 years in soil. They create competition for grass swards, due to their large rooting system and are therefore a problem that needs ridding.
It is best to control dock plants when they are actively growing. Chemical sprays/herbicides can be applied and will give a season-long control of docks. Teagasc recommend the use of products based on dicamba, triclopyr and fluroxypyr. These products will not only control docks but also other grassland pests.
To rid them for the longer term, it is advised to plough and then reseed. Herbicides should be applied after reseeding, to achieve long term control and prevent young plants establishing themselves.
You can also train your stock to eat dock leaves and they have great nutritional benefits, as mentioned by us here. The Broad-leaved dock is known to be high in potassium and phosphate levels in its leaves, while it is also high in magnesium. That is not all though, as studies have proven that livestock fed on herbage containing dock leaves, do not suffer bloat. This is due to tannins in its leaves, which causes the release of soluble protein in the rumen.
Thistles - Again, a very common grassland pest on most farms, the thistle can be found on any type of land, with the creeping thistle the most prevalent and troublesome in the country.
It spreads via creeping roots as well as its seeds been blown in the wind. This generally occurs in July and August months. It also causes a problem during reseeding, as new plants can grow from tiny fragments of root which may be remaining after ploughing etc and these fragments then burst into life. They not only prevent competition for grass swards but also prevent livestock grazing near them due to spikes/thistles. They emerge in spring and can be controlled immediately via topping. This should be carried out prior to spraying as it gives the grass a chance to grow.
For non-GLAS farmers, chemicals such as MCPA and 2,4-D can be used, though are not very effective as they do not kill the plant at the root. Herbicides such as Thistlex, Pastor and Forefront are recommended by Teagasc, though they do warn that follow-up sprays will be needed.
You can also train your stock to munch on other grassland pests such as blackberry bushes, vetch plants, nettles and red clover. Again, check out this article here.
When using herbicides, it is always important to exercise caution.
Always read the label before use and ensure you are following guidelines correctly. Do not spray in wet or windy weather, or even if bad weather is forecast for the next two days after spraying. A minimum of 5 meters must be given between any water source and area of spraying.
Sprayers should be washed and rinsed up to three times, while any sprayer over 5-years-old with a boom of over 3metres, must pass a pesticide application equipment test by a DAFM approved inspector. Finally, always keep a log of every product you use, the concentration and when it was used.
To read the Teagasc guide in full see here.