Recently, an increase in the spread of cogongrass has landowners scrambling to find ways to stop this invasive plant. There are ways to combat cogongrass, and identifying and being persistent with treatment are paramount.
Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is found all over the world. In the U.S, it is primarily found in the southeast. Cogongrass was purposely introduced as a soil stabilizer for pasture lands in Florida during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It wasn’t long before ranchers and agricultural scientists realized that cogongrass was an invasive species. Once established, cogongrass has the ability to overrun a pasture to the point that it will be the only plant species occupant. It’s a perennial grass with a vast, ever expanding root system. This grass can grow in any soil type and is drought tolerant. Therefore, it thrives no matter how poor the soil environment. The major concern with cogongrass is the ability to eliminate native plant habitat.
Cogongrass can be confused with other grasses, like switchgrass. This is especially possible early in the year before the bloom. To identify cogongrass, first investigate the growing pattern. Cogongrass usually infiltrates an area in patches. As shown in figure 1, the grass blades are flat and have a defining white mid-rib. Blades are finely serrated, yellow to green in color and are uneven in width on each side of the mid-rib. The root system has a distinct “toothpick” root shoot that points upwards. As shown in figure 2, the seed head is fluffy, white and feather shaped. The seed head can alarmingly yield 3,000 seeds per head.
The pest management strategy most successful with eradicating cogongrass consists of multiple types of herbicides sprayed over multiple year applications, with additional spot treatments. Prescribe burning can also be used in concert as an integrated approach.
Cost of control efforts can be daunting to the landowner. Fortunately, the Florida Forest Service has implemented a cogongrass treatment cost-share program. This program is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Forest Service and is funded through a USDA Forest Service grant. The program offers up to a 50% reimbursement towards the cost of approved herbicide treatments on non-industrial private land over a 2-year period.
For an application or more information, please contact the Florida Forest Service District Headquarters in Panama City at 691-0809 / website www.freshfromflorida.com, or contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200.
“Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) Biology, Ecology, and
Management in Florida Grazing Lands” by B. A. Sellers, J. A. Ferrell, G. E. MacDonald, K. A. Langeland, and S. L. Flory: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/WG/WG20200.pdf
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