Noxious Species of the Month

Jointed Goatgrass

Early in 2016, Campbell County added Jointed Goatgrass to its declared invasive species list. This species can invade many different land types, primarily affecting wheat and other small grain fields. If not controlled on an annual basis it can pose a real issue for farmers in the county. This article is intended to help identify Jointed Goatgrass and provide control options for various situations.

Jointed Goatgrass is an annual winter grass that usually grows to a height of one to two feet. It has erect stems that send out other smaller stems by way of basal tillers. The weed has alternate leaves with hairs along the margins of the leaves. The seed heads are spikelets that join, making it appear jointed and protruding from the spikelets are awns or hair-like bristles.

Due to the weed's winter growth habit, crops planted in the fall, such as winter wheat, are highly susceptible to becoming hybridized resulting in a reduced crop yield. At maturity, it blends into winter wheat fields extremely well.

Hopefully, the described characteristics along with the pictures provided will help identify this weedy invader. Next, we will look at some control methods that can be implemented if this weed is a problem on your property.

The invasive species is controlled through a variety of cultural, mechanical, chemical, or biological treatment methods. Cultural control includes planting species with a different life cycle than that of jointed goatgrass. An example of cultural control would be changing a crop from winter wheat to spring wheat. Mechanically, tilling or disking in the fall is another option. In cases of small infestations, hand pulling can be effective, as long as the entire plant is removed. Chemical treatment includes a few options. If the plant is occurring outside a planted field, a grass herbicide, such as Select (Clethodim) can be employed. Round Up (glyphosate) is an option if the plant is occurring in an industrial area. The main chemical for controlling the weed in winter wheat fields is Beyond (Imazamox), which must be teamed with a special wheat seed (Clearfield) to prevent harm to the wheat crop. Biological treatment is a new potential option that is still in the trial phase. It is a bacteria (MB906) that is sprayed onto the area that inhibits root growth.
Ideal control methods include implementing multiple strategies in an integrated weed management plan. An example of multiple strategies would be to disk a field in the early fall, leaving the field fallow for a year, while treating with Round Up to kill any surviving weeds.
This species might not be on everyone's radar, but definitely should be if you plant winter wheat or have any other fall planting planned. With the correct management, you can reduce stands and improve yields in your fields. Remember you usually get better control when you implement multiple control techniques. As always, if you have questions on this noxious species or any other species, please stop by our office or give us a call.