Getting rid of Sudan/Johnson grass

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by 2horses, Jun 19, 2007.

  1. 2horses

    2horses I'm a silly filly!! Supporter

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    I have a portion of my 12 acre horse pasture covered in a Sudan or Johnson grass, which I have been told can be toxic for my horses. So I need to eradicate it, but still keep that part of the pasture accessible (no cross fencing) and useful. Does anyone know how I can get rid of it and ensure it won't come back, short of chemically nuking the stuff? Will discing it in work or will that just spread it? I have been keeping it mowed (it comprises about an eighth of the pasture area), but was told that I need to let it grow long to reduce the toxicity. So I obviously have no clue what I'm doing. Any and all help concerning this will be most appreciated!!

    Oh, and the horses have been grazing this pasture for over a year and are fine, I just want to reduce the risk of potential problems. I don't think they eat a lot of it, maybe just the tips, and have plenty of other grass to eat as well. Plus they are only out to graze for 12 hours each day, and then stalled at night.

    Pam :cool: <------------- just wants to provide her horses safe pasture
     
  2. pancho

    pancho Well-Known Member

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    We used to graze johnson grass all the time. We baled many bales and fed many cattle and horses with no problems.
     

  3. Ramblin Wreck

    Ramblin Wreck Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've never heard that Johnson grass was toxic, but it's definitely a nuisance plant. My Dad didn't buy the farm next door (rather than the one he bought), because it was infested with Johnson grass. For cultivation, it is a problem. The neighbor who bought the farm turned it into pasture, and his animals seemed to do fine.
     
  4. Lisa in WA

    Lisa in WA Formerly LisainN.Idaho Supporter

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  5. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    You have problems with it when its been dry for a long time and get rain and have that spurt of new growth.

    Johnson Grass is one of the hardest plants to get rid of.

    big rockpile
     
  6. farmergirl

    farmergirl Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The problems with Johnson grass come about during times of drought or dry weather. It's the high concentration of Prussic acid that's responsible for the cattle and horse deaths at those times. As long as you don't graze it when it's dry, you should be fine. I understand your concern, though, because we have some just outside our pasture fence and boy does it get tall! The livestock can reach over the fence to eat it if they feel the urge to do so. My solution has been to mow it down so they can't reach it when it gets dry.
     
  7. Ramblin Wreck

    Ramblin Wreck Well-Known Member Supporter

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  8. Irish Pixie

    Irish Pixie *under construction

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    From what I read once it's dried it's no longer toxic so baling it for hay is fine. It's has a moderate to high toxicity rating... nothing to mess with in my opinion.

    Stacy
     
  9. 2horses

    2horses I'm a silly filly!! Supporter

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    It's the iffyness that gets me - I mean, what exactly is dry weather? No rain for a week? A month? Does the plant have to wilt first before it goes bad? And I see new shoots all the time, so how do I keep them from eating the new shoots which are next to the taller grass? And it came up like gang busters in the spring! Was it highly toxic then? Is that considered a "spurt of new growth?" I don't know the answer to a single one of those questions.

    It's just too subjective to risk it, so I want it gone. I can't guarantee that I can manage it safely, and I have no other pasture, nor is this area fenced separately. Nope, it needs to go. And I need help getting it gone.

    Pam :cool: <------------ doesn't want to overreact, buuuuuut.............
     
  10. Sand Flat Bob

    Sand Flat Bob north central Texas

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    You have Texas A&M close and your county extension agent. Use them. They have a tremendous amount of information on Johnson Grass and also information on using it for horse pasture and baling. I have some Johnson grass on my place and have some very expensive breeding horses grazing on it. Never had any trouble, but they have lots of coastal and Bahia grass to eat. Totally different than if they only had Johnson Grass.

    Bob
     
  11. dare2b

    dare2b crone

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    I googled Johnson grass and found many links. Here's one, with an excerpt:

    http://www.seedsource.com/medicine/curse.htm


    Mister Johnson's Curse spreads rapidly and aggressively by rhizomes as well as by its prodigious capacity to produce seeds. Unlike prairie grasses, its roots are shallow, so it does nothing to aerate the soil or to draw water deep into the ground. It also exudes a natural toxin from its root system that prevents other plants from growing close to it, so effectively serves as a "herbicide" to the competition.

    We've heard that persistent severe grazing will eventually kill it off, but that can take years. Removing it by hand is an arduous process, because every part of the tough and extensive rhizomes must be located and pulled out of the soil or it will just spring back again.

    So what should you do if you have Johnson Grass on your land? Solarization removal methods can be effective (see our Native Grass Planting Tips page) if it exists in smaller colonies and hasn't spread too far. For larger areas, we have used repeated plowing over the winter months to expose the roots to freezing temperatures and dry them out during sunny and dry spells. On native prairie restoration projects, we have made an exception to our general rule of avoiding chemicals, and carefully applied herbicide directly to the plants.

    If nothing else, Johnson Grass should always be mowed to prevent it from blooming and going to seed, while you work persistently and patiently to remove it from your land.

    Edited to add: thanks for posting this question. I have johnson grass too, it turns out. Just never knew what it was. I live a coupla hours south of Dallas, TX.
     
  12. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    Sudan grass and Johnson grass are not the same plant.

    It might help to identify which you have.
     
  13. RosewoodfarmVA

    RosewoodfarmVA Well-Known Member

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    Sudan grass is a summer annual, planted in the spring for summer grazing/hay, and it dies completely with the first frost. Johnson grass is the perennial one. You have Johnson grass. Many farmers around here have it, but while they complain that it is trouble in a crop field, it's ok in pasture. I guess as long as there is a variety of plants available, the animals won't eat enough of it to poison them. I'm glad we don't have any here! Either spray with roundup or disk repeatedly for several years!
     
  14. 2horses

    2horses I'm a silly filly!! Supporter

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    Thanks Bob. I am waiting for my county guy to return my call, and it was the Extension's equine specialist, Dr. Pete Gibbs, that I first talked to about this problem. My horses have lots of other grasses to eat too, so I'm hoping that's contributing to their continued well-being. Only a certain section of the pasture has the Johnson grass.

    Wonder if anyone knows what volume of grass they have to eat for it to reach toxic levels in their bodies, when it is actively producing the prussic acid? Another question for the ag extension guy...

    Thanks everyone for your input - it's funny, but sad, kinda - WBF went out to look at it (yet again) with me yesterday evening, and started pulling it out by hand. He vowed he'd be out there every day doing the same until it was all gone, if that's what it took to keep the horses safe. I hope we find a better method than that... I'm thinking a hot wire around that part of the pasture, and mowing it so close, so often that it stresses and dies. We'll see.

    Pam :cool: <------------ was pulling the horrid stuff up too
     
  15. Lisa in WA

    Lisa in WA Formerly LisainN.Idaho Supporter

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  16. 2horses

    2horses I'm a silly filly!! Supporter

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    Sorry - Wonderful BoyFriend! LOL!!

    Pam :cool: <------------ thinks any man that would offer to pull out Johnson grass by hand is way past wonderful!
     
  17. FarmerJeff

    FarmerJeff Well-Known Member

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    Sudan grass produces a cyanide compound when grazed young. I would disk or till the area and then plant a very dense smother crop of oats. Seed at about 100-150 pounds per acre. Let the oats grow as long as possible before they head out. Then chop or brush hog them, disc or till in, and drill new pasture mix.
     
  18. Stephen in SOKY

    Stephen in SOKY Well-Known Member

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    If it's johnsongrass, disking will only make it worse by breaking up the rhizomes. Roundup will only make it sick by burning down the top & perhaps killing seedling johnsongrass including root. Rhizome johnsongrass however (It's all the same just originates from 2 seperate places) will not be significantly affected by roundup. Disking plus Eradicane 6.7E will kill most of it. Poast is a herbicide labeled to kill rhizome that you might want to consider. It's truly a bane to the existance of those with it (Like myself). Good luck, I'm very afraid you'll need it.
     
  19. Tricky Grama

    Tricky Grama Well-Known Member

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    Why can't it be scraped off w/box blade-I guess if it's just a few acres-then overseed w/another grass?
     
  20. Ramblin Wreck

    Ramblin Wreck Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If it's Johnson grass, that'll just make it mad. Kudzu might overtake it, but then you've got one devil plant substituting for another.