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Win the battle with brush

Tree sprouts and other brush species rob vital nutrients and moisture from forage crops and discourage cattle from grazing in heavily infested areas. Controlling woody species in pasture can be a challenge, but it can be done. The financial rewards are great, plus, you’ll have a good looking pasture.

I divide brush into two categories. First, tree sprouts, and second, “other” woody species. The reason I make this distinction is that timing of a herbicide application is different for these categories. For tree sprouts, it’s best to not begin spraying until July 1. In the category of “other” woody species, application timing depends on the target plant.

When producers ask for my recommendation on getting brush out of pastures, I typically ask for something back: a commitment. Either commit to bush-hogging until you kill all the brush or commit to spraying until you kill all the brush. But it’s a trick. Generations of bush-hogging will not kill the brush. However, a few years of smart and diligent herbicide application will get the pasture in shape. Combined approaches generally just extend how long it takes to achieve control. I realize that letting the brush stand will be somewhat unsightly, but it does speed the process. Letting it stand means you don’t have to wait for adequate regrowth to occur to have enough leaf surface to absorb herbicide.

In the “other” woody species category, the most common and most troubling species typically are blackberries, dewberries, greenbrier, buckbrush and multiflora rose. Blackberries and dewberries have the same treatment. I use Chaparral at 2.5 ounces per acre, Remedy Ultra at 1 pint per acre with Astute or Astute Extra (preferred). Timing is a bit of a question. Studies show that the highest percentage kill is achieved by spraying in mid-September. However, if I can kill these plants early, it begins to release lots of grass. Regardless of timing, at least two applications will be necessary. I recommend spraying anytime about a week after full bloom with a second application in September. Typically this results in very good control on pasture ground.

Hay ground creates a new dilemma. On hay ground, the field is mowed before the herbicide application, or the plant is covered by grass canopy. In this case, cut early, cut only once and plan on a September herbicide application. It may take an extra year or two to get the control you desire.

Buckbrush is best controlled with Chaparral at 2.5 ounces per acre, 1 quart of 2,4-D or Hi-Dep per acre with Astute Extra. Control is better with early application—when target weeds fully leaf out in mid-April—but you can get satisfactory results spraying up to the end of May. After June 1, results are unpredictable.

If you have both blackberries and buckbrush in the same field, my approach is 2.5 ounces of Chaparral, 12 ounces of Remedy Ultra and 24 ounces of 2,4-D or Hi-Dep per acre with Astute Extra. Timing is one week after full bloom on the blackberries, but no later than the end of May.

Multiflora rose can be controlled with spot treatments of Grazon Next Hl, Chaparral or Grazon P+D. The key is coverage. Timing is May through August.

Greenbrier is a tough, viny pest. If you don’t have too many of them a dormant application of Remedy Ultra at 1 quart with 3 quarts diesel on the bottom 24-inches of the plant all the way around will do a nice job. If you have too much greenbrier for this labor-intensive method, a broadcast application of 2.5 ounces Chaparral and 1 quart of Remedy Ultra per acre with Astute Extra in mid-June is called for. Expect about 3 years of application before seeing truly promising results.

When it comes to tree species, summer and late summer timing is typically best.

For newer locust sprouts, Grazon Next HL at 1 quart per acre with Astute Extra will do a good job. If they’ve been cut less than five times, you can add 1 pint of Remedy Ultra per acre to clean them up. If you know the sprouts have been cut many times in the past, I have seen the best results using 4 to 6 pints of Surmount per acre with Astute Extra. Timing is mid-June through September.

Hedge (Osage orange) is best controlled with 1.5 to 2 pints of Remedy Ultra per acre with Astute Extra. Timing, again, is mid-June through September.

Oaks and hickory present a difficult challenge. My approach on these species is 2 to 3 pints of Remedy Ultra and 2 to 3 pints of Tordon 22K per acre with Astute Extra. Adding 1 quart per acre of 2,4-D or Hi-Dep can improve results. In this case, Remedy probably gives the most dramatic result, but Tordon keeps the surviving sprouts weak and more sensitive a follow-up application the next year. You can spray oaks and hickory beginning in early July and through September. Expect 2 to 3 years of application. After that, you can finish off the few survivors with Spike pellets or a basal bark application of Remedy Ultra.

Expectations on brush for brush control is an exercise in patience. Typically, the brush you see in a pasture didn’t arrive in just one year and you likely won’t control it in just one year. Be patient—use the right product, at the right rate, at the right time with the right surfactant. You’ll get the control you want over time. Obviously, I have not covered all the brush species. Feel free to contact me for more specific information.

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