Farming is, at its core, about managing and caring for the land. And, unfortunately, most farmers will encounter a weed species that wants to challenge that control. On my farm in Texas, our main weed problem is Johnsongrass. So I’m slowly bu surely fighting the invasive plant to eliminate its hold on Hackberry Farm.
Johnsongrass (or Johnson grass) covers the entire world. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1830s from Africa as a forage crop. And the thing is, it does make a decent forage and hay crop. But in late summer, when the grass becomes stressed, it can actually turn toxic to animals and harm your livestock.
And Johnsongrass is tenacious. If you have the plant and disturb the ground, it will come back up Moving soil from one place to another on the farm? You’re probably going to move that Johnsongrass, too.
Know Your Enemy
Effective weed control isn’t about just spraying herbicide and walking away. You have to know your enemy. Correctly identifying Johnsongrass as the primary weed challenge on our farm determines how we battle the noxious plant.
We’ll never eliminate the grass completely from our farm. But by fighting it back year after year, its presence won’t challenge the other plant species I want to establish.
Learning to Fight Johnsongrass
Johnsongrass has a dirty secret hidden under the ground that makes it particularly effective at taking over. When you pull up a stalk of the plant, noting the telltale purple at its base, you’ll see Johnsongrass grows rhizomes—long roots that stretch horizontally beneath the soil. You can see what this looks like in the video.
These rhizomes then spring up more plants. And when you plow the ground, you break these rhizomes into segments, each of which can grow another plant. So it’s important to kill Johnsongrass at the root, rather than just take care of the aboveground plant.
Synthetic herbicide is an effective tool, but if you choose to use this, it’s important to read the directions. Because of the particular challenges this weed presents, most herbicides will provide specific mixing directions for treating it.
In addition to spraying, we’re also very attentive to our mowing. Why? Johnsongrass doesn’t like competition, so by selective cutting, we give native grasses a foothold to take over. In time, this will lessen the weed’s presence.