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Protect your pastures from pests

Protect your pastures from pests

By Scout Nelson

Keeping your pastures healthy means battling more than just weather. This summer, Nebraska ranchers might face a triple threat: grasshopper infestations, poisonous hemlock, and yucca plant takeover.

Samantha Daniel provides tips on managing grasshopper infestations, Ben Beckman offers strategies for dealing with poisonous hemlock, and Jerry Volesky shares methods for controlling yucca on rangeland. Let's explore their expert advice on handling these pasture problems effectively.

Grasshopper Control:

  • Scout Your Fields: Grasshopper populations can explode this year, especially in southwest, south-central, and western Nebraska. Check your pastures regularly using the "square-foot method." Count grasshoppers jumping out of a one-foot square area 18 times and divide the total by two. This gives you grasshoppers per square yard.
  • Treatment Time: If grasshopper numbers reach eight to 40 per square yard (depending on factors like plant type), it's time to act. Insecticides like Dimilin 2L or Prevathon are most effective when grasshoppers are ¾ inches long. Scout now to ensure timely treatment!

Beware the Hemlock:

  • Poisonous Threat: Poison hemlock is a deadly plant for both people and livestock. It thrives in moist areas like streamsides and pastures and has fern-like leaves with purple spots on the stems.
  • Prevention is Key: Avoid overgrazing pastures. Hungry animals with limited food choices are more likely to eat hemlock. Ensure plenty of water, salt, and minerals are available to discourage abnormal eating behavior. Just a few pounds of hemlock foliage can be fatal to livestock.
  • Control Measures: Don't mow or spray hemlock during grazing season – this can make it more appealing to animals. Control hemlock in early spring, fall, or fence off large patches. Herbicides like 2,4-D + Dicamba or Graslan L® can be effective.

Taming the Yucca:

  • Yucca on the Range: Yucca plants, also called soapweed, are common in western and central Nebraska. They compete with grass for water and can take over rangeland.
  • Herbicide Options: Herbicides like Remedy Ultra® or PastureGard HL® can control yucca but require spraying each plant directly. A special applicator can be used to target individual plants with soil herbicides like Velpar L®. Broadcasting herbicides is expensive and not recommended.
  • Winter Grazing: In some cases, winter grazing can be effective. Yucca is often the only green plant available, and cattle may eat the base of the plant. This method can take time, and some animals may not participate.

By following these tips, you can keep your pastures healthy and productive, and your livestock safe from harm. Remember, early detection and action are key to winning the battle against grasshoppers, hemlock, and yucca.

Photo Credit -istock-alenamozhjer

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