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!)
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