Managing Smooth Bedstraw (Galium mollugo L.) in Forage Crops

Project Overview

ONE04-025
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2004: $7,405.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,772.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Richard Kersbergen
University of maine Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay

Practices

  • Animal Production: pasture fertility, pasture renovation, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Pest Management: chemical control, competition, precision herbicide use, weed ecology
  • Soil Management: green manures

    Proposal abstract:

    Smooth Bedstraw (Galium mullugo L.) has become a problem weed in many perennial forage crops including hayfields and pastures. This weed is an aggressive invasive plant that severely reduces yield and quality of forage crops, both grasses and legumes. Bedstraw has “invaded” 1000’s of acres of hayfields and pastures in Maine, especially those fields that have been recently abandoned or those that have not been aggressively managed. Smooth Bedstraw management presents a challenge, as the weed proliferates even in established fields and pastures. It reproduces both by seed and vegetatively through underground rhizomes. Extension offices throughout the state often get numerous calls, especially when the weed is in flower in July looking for recommendations for control. Chemical control is expensive and is limited in its effectiveness. It is also not an option for many organic or small livestock producers. This project looks to investigate four possible control options and evaluate their effectiveness in controlling this weed. A randomized complete block design on a cooperating farmers field will yield important information that could be utilized by many small and part time livestock farmers in Maine and New England.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Smooth Bedstraw has become a problem weed in many forage crops, especially pasture and haycrops. It can significantly reduce yields of forage grasses and legumes. Smooth bedstraw is a perennial that spreads by seed as well as vegetatively with underground rhizomes. It has numerous, relatively upright stems and produces white to greenish flowers in June and July. Individual plants can grow 1 to 3 feet tall and spread to 3 feet or more in diameter.

    Bedstraw grows throughout the Northeast. The weed is prevalent in infrequently mowed hay fields of low fertility and low pH, and tolerates low soil Nitrogen and low pH better than the desired forage species. Bedstraw also thrives in well-managed fields because of its adaptation to a wide variety of environmental conditions. Smooth Bedstraw prefers moist, cool conditions, but can tolerate drought.

    Many hayfields in Maine that have not been intensively managed or in rotation with row crops have experienced a proliferation of Smooth Bedstraw. Cattle, Sheep and Horses will not eat Bedstraw, and its spreading nature in hayfields significantly reduces grass and legume yield.
    Control of Bedstraw is difficult for many livestock producers. Some herbicide options exist, but have limited effectiveness and have grazing or harvest restrictions associated with their use. Numerous calls come to Extension offices throughout the state when Bedstraw begins to flower and growers visually see how dominate the plant has become in their fields.

    Four possible options will be investigated and evaluated to control Smooth Bedstraw in established pastures and hayfields. Two herbicide treatments, (Roundup or glyphosate, and Crossbow), one fertility treatment (Nitrogen applications), and a tillage treatment will be compared to a control (two mowings per year).
    Fertility management is probably the easiest and most likely option for many growers. By fertilizing the existing grasses, it is anticipated that they will out-compete the bedstraw and reduce its vigor. Tillage, cover crop and bare fallow will probably be the most effective in eradicating the weed, but also may have the highest price tag and have minimal use with small and part time farmers who lack the equipment to perform these operations. Many livestock producers are also unwilling to use herbicides, so alternatives must be investigated.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.