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6/22/17- Johnsongrass

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Thanks to all the rain we’ve been getting over the last few weeks, vegetation is growing like a weed (no pun intended). From Mobile to Huntsville, all the residential yards look like they haven’t been mowed in decades. One grass that can be controlled by too much rain is Johnsongrass or Sorghum halepense. This grass is mostly found along the back roads or in abandoned fields but if you glance out along the horizon, you can see it with its brown top, swaying in the breeze.

Unfortunately, Johnsongrass is a highly invasive grass that is very hard to control. It is a warm season grass that stands anywhere from 3 to 8 feet tall and has many stems that branch out from the base. It is a very green grass with wide leaves that get narrower as they reach the top of the grass. The top is formed by little brown, wispy looking branches. In the summer, the top is more of a reddish/pink color and then becomes brown in the fall. It seeds from May to March and that is where all the trouble starts. This plant is highly invasive because of how easily it seeds and sprouts. It always occurs in dense stands along roadsides or in fields. Johnsongrass is one of the pioneer species that invades new forest plantations, any and all forest openings, or any open forest floor. It will choke out any new tree seedling by outcompeting for necessary resources. New Johnsongrass plants will produce seeds in the first year and continue to seed for years to come. Sometimes those seeds will take off, other times they will remain dormant for years and years making your job extremely difficult! However, increased flooding for an extended amount of time can kill some rhizomes, but dormant seeds will be unharmed. Whatever you do, do not run over or trample these plants!!! Older plants that are smashed by vehicle tires or heavy rain can and will sprout at each stem node, producing tons and tons of new Johnsongrass plants just itching to invade more land. Luckily, we are not in a drought at the moment, but in times of drought, this plant becomes toxic (Cyanide poisoning) to livestock or grazing animals! Johnsongrass can be controlled by flooding (as mentioned earlier), mowing, and appropriate chemicals.

Many agricultural fields are being seized by Johnsongrass but there is hope! The extra rainfall that we are receiving right now should take care of some plants, while mowing and chemicals should get the rest. If you are having trouble with Johnsongrass invading your forest floors or fields, it is time to give some thought to control methods, especially if it could affect your livelihood (and your livestock!)

 

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as the newest member of the TrueSouth team! I will be walking tracts of land with a fine tooth comb and providing clients with information regarding wildlife habitat and wildlife abundance collected from those tracts. My job is to inform the buyer of all the wildlife species he/she is inheriting! But first, let me tell you how my “buck fever” began.
My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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