Weed Management Plans for Horse Pastures

Fall is a good time to evaluate the quality of your horse pastures, because it is easy to see which weeds were most prevalent and uncontrolled during the summer and are now large and seed-producing.
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Weed Management Plans for Horse Pastures
Weedy species to treat with herbicides this fall include thistles (pictured), purple deadnettle, buckhorn plantain, and common chickweed. | Photo: iStock
Fall is a good time to evaluate the quality of your horse pastures each year, because it is easy to see which weeds were most prevalent and uncontrolled during the summer and are now large and seed-producing. It is also a good time to develop a weed management plan for pastures in the coming year. When creating an effective weed management plan, consider: the pasture’s purpose, weed species and abundance, which weeds should be controlled and the method of weed control, and sources of information.

Purpose of the pasture.

If pasture is a significant portion of your horses’ diet, you’ll want a high-quality, nearly weed-free forage. Conversely, a “pasture” maintained as a drylot for feeding horses will contain many weeds, but there is little reason to control these weeds since there are few, if any, desirable forages in the drylot. Kentucky horse pastures usually are maintained between these two extremes. Property owners often ask why these weeds are in their pastures, followed by what they should do about them. Forages grown with adequate fertility and not overgrazed will limit weed occurrence but not prevent all weeds from growing.

Weed species, abundance, and distribution.

Plants that we call weeds grow in ecological niches–environments that allow for germination, vegetative growth, and maturation. Horse pastures provide several of these ecological niches that allow some weeds to thrive. Kentucky is located in the temperate transition zone that in which both warm-season and cool-season plants grow.

Warm-season weeds germinate in spring or early summer, grow, and produce seeds before frost.  Cool-season weeds germinate and produce some growth in the fall and seeds the following spring or summer

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