Crabgrass and Goosegrass Control in Fine Turf

Over the past 7 to 10 days, warm-season weeds have really turned the corner and are growing rapidly. It’s probably no coincidence that 5-day average soil temperatures finally pushed past 70 degrees about 10 days ago in central NJ. Until last week, most of the crabgrass I observed was growing slowly with a chlorotic appearance. Now it has taken on the more characteristic lime green hue and is growing more rapidly than surrounding cool-season turf. Where previously it was mostly present in thin area of turf, it’s now beginning to make an appearance in dense stands of fine turf such as fairways and greens.

Smooth crabgrass with its characteristic hue in a poor stand of perennial ryegrass on June 23, 2017.

With this post, I’m going to focus mostly on control in in creeping bentgrass where herbicide options are limited. Now is a good time to scout historically problematic areas for small crabgrass and goosegrass plants. If left uncontrolled and allowed to tiller, crabgrass control in creeping bentgrass fairway turf is difficult and with risk of bentgrass injury.

Leaf stage smooth crabgrass in an annual bluegrass/creeping bentgrass fairway.

Fenoxaprop (Acclaim Extra) can be applied at 3.5 fl oz/A for control in bentgrass fairways. This rate is 8 to 10X lower than what can be applied to ryegrass, bluegrass and tall fescue to control larger crabgrass plants. At the 3.5 fl oz/A rate, multiple applications on 2 to 3 week intervals may be required to provide control of small leaf-stage crabgrass. If crabgrass is allowed to tiller, even multiple applications of fenoxaprop at rates labeled for use in bentgrass fairways may be a losing battle, so scouting is important. Quinclorac (Drive XLR8, Quinclorac 75DF) is an option to control tillered plants in bentgrass. At rates labeled for use in creeping bentgrass multiple applications may be required. Refer to the label for more information about rates, turfgrass tolerance and adjuvants.

Fenoxaprop will also provide suppression or control of small goosegrass plants. However, once goosegrass begins to tiller, fenoxaprop is less effective at low rates.

Topramezone (Pylex) is an effective herbicide for goosegrass control in cool-season turf. However, in creeping bentgrass fairways, Pylex is labeled for application at up to 0.25 fl oz/A. Tolerance may vary depending on bentgrass cultivar and other management practices. Topramezone causes bleaching of susceptible plant tissue and while limited bleaching is not detrimental to fairway turf from an agronomic perspective, it is very noticeable to even a casual observer. I hate to copy instructions from a bottle of carpet cleaner, but it’s a good idea to make an application to a small area of bentgrass and wait 10 to 14 days to make sure the bleaching you observe is acceptable. My experience with low rates of topramezone for goosegrass control is limited, but multiple applications may be required depending on plant size. Include methylated seed oil or crop oil with Pylex per the product label. Other cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, tall fescue and fine fescue are more tolerant than creeping bentgrass and application at higher rates is permitted.

Crabgrass and goosegrass will continue to germinate throughout the summer. If you are observing significant breakthrough in areas already treated with a pre-emergence herbicide consider applying a pre-emergence herbicide with a different mode of action than previously applied. One example is Anderson’s Goosegrass/Crabgrass Control, which contains oxadiazon. Oxadiazon is a PPO inhibiting herbicide, not a mitotic inhibiting herbicide like most other pre-emergents (i.e., bensulide, dithiopyr, pendimethalin, prodiamine). Anderson’s Goosegrass/Crabgrass Control should be applied to dry turf and is labeled for use on bentgrass putting greens. Another example of an herbicide with a different mode of action is Tower (dimethenamid-P). Tower is labeled for use on bentgrass fairways and tees. Read the label for more information on turfgrass tolerance to both of these products.

For information on crabgrass and goosegrass ID and control other turfgrass areas, see this previous post.

The mention of trade names and rates is for educational purposes and does not imply endorsement by the author, Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science, or the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Always defer to the product label for instructions on properly applying an herbicide.

Weeds off to a Slow Start

Despite a quick start to the spring, soil temperatures remain low across the much of the state. Average soil temperatures (3-inch depth) have been hanging around the mid 60s in central NJ and many warm-season weeds such as crabgrass have hardly developed despite germinating over 6 weeks ago. This crabgrass at our research facility has not advanced past the leaf stage and I have observed this across the region over the past few weeks.

Smooth crabgrass in the leaf stage

The peak of annual bluegrass seedhead production has passed. It was a very difficult spring to properly time ethephon applications for optimum seedhead suppression. If the results of our seedhead suppression research trial are indicative of the region, then I suspect those that made a fall (December at the snow mold fungicide timing) application of ethephon were happy with suppression. Spring-only applications did not perform very well in our research.

A very seedy annual bluegrass putting green at Hort. Farm No. 2

When warmer weather arrives, warm-season weeds will develop rapidly. If you are relying exclusively on post-emergence herbicides for crabgrass control, an application of a post-emergence herbicide in the next few weeks may be warranted. This will only control what has already germinated and not what will emerge as we continue into the summer, so additional applications will be necessary. Especially if using fenoxaprop (Acclaim Extra, Last Call), lower herbicide rates often can be used when treating smaller plants. Mesotrione (Tenacity) is another post-emergence crabgrass herbicide that is most effective on smaller plants. Quinclorac (Drive XLR8, Quinclorac 75DF) is another post-emergence option but is often more effective against larger (> 4 tiller) plants than the smaller plants present right now. Topramezone (Pylex) has efficacy some against crabgrass but is an extremely effective product for goosegrass control. See the herbicide labels for more information.

We observed goosegrass emergence two weeks ago at certain sites but not others. This event is not particularly relevant for those who applied a pre-emergent herbicide. However, you may want to scout areas with a history of goosegrass problems to make sure your pre-emergence herbicide is working. Goosegrass seedlings can be difficult to differentiate from crabgrass seedlings. Goosegrass seedlings have a ridged adaxial leaf surface (ridges look similar to perennial ryegrass) and a blunt leaf tip while crabgrass seedlings are relatively smooth with a sharper leaf tip. If you applied a pre-emergence herbicide and are already seeing goosegrass germination please contact me.

Goosegrass seedlings

If you plan to make an herbicide application to control broadleaf weeds, the weather continues to be ideal for control and growth of the cool-season grass into voids. This is especially true for the summer annual knotweed.

Prostrate knotweed observed mid-May in New Brunswick

 

Prostrate knotweed is more easily controlled now while it is still relatively immature. Standard three-way or other broadleaf herbicides that contain 2,4-D may not provide complete control. So in the case of severe infestation, products that contain triclopyr (e.g., T-Zone, Battleship III, 4-Speed XT, Cool Power, others) will provide more control. Cultural practices such as aerification to reduce compaction and improve conditions for turf growth are also essential. For more information on whether you will disrupt the pre-emergence herbicide barrier by aerifying, see this information from Dr. Aaron Patton.

To Aerify or Not to Aerify when Using a Preemergence Herbicide

 

Sedges and Kyllingas

This week I visited several golf courses and other sites along the Garden State Parkway from Exit 9 (Cape May) to Exit 171 (A few miles from the NY State line. In terms of plant development, northern NJ seems to be about a week behind central NJ and southern NJ seems to be a week or two ahead of central NJ. The most noticeable difference across locations is the difference in kyllinga emergence from dormancy. In southern NJ, kyllinga is close to full emergence while kyllinga northern NJ is at approximately 50% emergence. In all locations, but especially those in southern NJ, now would be a good time to begin making applications if you haven’t already.

False-green kyllinga dominating a stand of tall fescue

False green kyllinga (foreground) has a lime green color compared to the tall fescue (background).

 

Our research indicates that halosulfuron-methyl and imazosulfuron are effective options for control. Multiple applications will likely be necessary for effective control. Make follow-up applications after you observe re-growth from the previous application (usually 3 to 4 weeks later). For more information see this previous blog post by Dr. Murphy. http://turfblog.rutgers.edu/?p=934#more-934.

Hurry Up and Wait. Now Go!

At the beginning of March we were potentially a week or two away from annual bluegrass seedhead emergence thanks to an extremely warm February. Cooler temperatures prevailed and significant snowfall across much of the Northeast brought soil temperatures down and put the brakes on annual bluegrass development for a few weeks. It’s now the beginning of April and we are very close to annual bluegrass seedhead emergence on putting greens in central New Jersey. Parts of northern New Jersey appear to be about a week behind the New Brunswick area.  If you haven’t already applied ethephon (i.e., Proxy, Ethephon 2 SL, Oskie) for seedhead suppression, this week might be ideal (see previous post for more information) for most courses in New Jersey.

Warmer temperatures this week will likely bring average 24-hour soil temperatures (one inch depth) into the 50s and turf will begin to grow more rapidly. Emergence of summer annual weeds is not far away. I first noticed prostrate knotweed emergence in mid February. These early germinating plants survived the winter weather and will continue to develop this week.

Prostrate knotweed seedlings

Note that knotweed seedlings will have two seed leaves and crabgrass will have only one.

Prostrate knotweed seedling with two seed leaves

 

Smooth crabgrass seedling with one seed leaf

I have not observed crabgrass emergence, even on south-facing slopes. I spent the latter part of last week in Washington D.C. and could not find any crabgrass along sidewalks and bare areas there either.

Crabgrass emerging with one seed leaf (in a previous year)

Depending on your location, forsythia may or may not be a reliable phenological indicator for crabgrass germination this year. In a normal year, pre-emergent herbicides (except for dithiopyr (Dimension), which can control crabgrass up to the pre-tiller stage) should be applied when forsythia is in full bloom because crabgrass germination will occur shortly thereafter. However, extremely cold temperatures killed or injured many forsythia flowers in central Jersey and areas south.

In northern New Jersey I’ve observed forsythia plants still in the bud stage and in this case they are likely to be effective indicators. Especially this year, it is important to use multiple forsythia plants because the bloom timing is affected by location among other factors. Plants that bloomed early were injured by the winter weather, but others were unaffected as this photo from @samcamuso demonstrates.

Soil temperature at a 1-inch depth has been reported as a reliable indicator of crabgrass germination assuming soil moisture is adequate. In a three-year study, Fidanza et al. (1996) found that crabgrass began to emerge when the soil temperature at a 1-inch depth averaged 57 to 63 degrees during a 7-day period. Soil temperatures at our research center in North Brunswick have been well below this threshold as of this writing. At this time we are holding off on making pre-emergent applications to our research trials. However, in southern New Jersey soil temperatures are warmer and crabgrass will germinate sooner. In these areas, making a pre-emergence herbicide application soon would be timely. If you are worried you may be too late, scout bare areas with crabgrass carcasses, especially those on south-facing slopes, as crabgrass will germinate earlier in these areas.

Making pre-emergent herbicides applications early is not thought to reduce efficacy. However, if you are using dithiopyr (i.e., Dimension) it’s a good idea to wait until shortly after emergence and take advantage of the early post-emergence efficacy this product provides against crabgrass.

Of course don’t forget to consider your potential renovation/seeding projects this spring. If you are planning on seeding, do not apply any pre-emergence herbicide.

Literature Cited

Fidanza MA, Dernoeden PH, Zhang M (1996) Degree-days for predicting smooth crabgrass emergence in cool-season turfgrass. Crop Sci. 36:990-996.

Crabgrass Emerging

Crabgrass has been emerging for several weeks now, depending on the exposure. Warmer and more open turfs will likely have more advanced (larger) plants while cooler and denser turfs will have smaller plants.

Relatively small crabgrass plants  (most pre-tillering stage) emerging from a footpath on June 11th.

Relatively small crabgrass plants (most pre-tillering stage) emerging from a footpath on June 11th.

 

Management options for this weed at this point in the season range from doing nothing to [Read more…]

Crabgrass Emerging

Back on May 24, I posted about my observation of crabgrass emerging in areas that had very thin turf cover and very high levels of crabgrass seed in the soil. Crabgrass is now emerging from areas with healthier turf and good density (and has not received a preemergence herbicide application). Recent and forecast rains are likely to [Read more…]

Crabgrass is Emerging

Very small first and second leaves of emerging crabgrass can be seen now in open turf areas.

During the last couple weeks, we have seen crabgrass emerging from open turf areas that were previously infested with crabgrass. Crabgrass emergence will probably occur later than this on better maintained turfs with a dense canopy.

If crabgrass is emerging, it is too late for most preemergence herbicides to be useful. However, dithiopyr (trade name Dimension) is a commonly used preemergence herbicide that also provides effective postemergence control of crabgrass (but not goosegrass). For postemergence control, dithiopyr should be applied [Read more…]

Crabgrass Continues to Emerge

Recent rains have stimulated more crabgrass to emerge. This will probably continue through the end of the month. If applied preemergence herbicides, especially early in the spring, you may start to see “breakthrough”. If have decided to control crabgrass postemergence (manually or with postemergence herbicides), you should scout for emerging plants after each rain or irrigation event. Water will stimulate more emergence of plants. See previous post for more information.

Recently emerged crabgrass seedling plants (taken 20 July).

Crabgrass Emerging

I have been observing the emergence of crabgrass since late April (see image above). Some crabgrass has now entered the tillering stage of growth.

As a general rule, most people begin to notice crabgrass in turf around the 4th of July (Independence Day). At that time, the crabgrass plants are large enough that the leaves stick-up above the desired grasses and the lighter (yellow) green color is highly noticeable from a distance. However, the crabgrass plants will be relatively large (tillered) by that date.

For those that want to control crabgrass postemergence, the next few weeks is the time for action because, regardless of the control tactic, crabgrass becomes more difficult to remove as it matures (get larger).

For those interested in non-chemical options, hand-picking the crabgrass is easiest when the plant are relatively small seedlings. As the plants grow, the enlarged root system makes it more difficult to pull these plants without snapping off the leaves and leaving the crown attached to roots. If this happens, the plants will re-grows its leaves. Hand-picking crabgrass plants is only practical for small turf/lawn areas.

There is limited detailed information the application and efficacy of “organic” herbicides to control crabgrass postemergence. So specific recommendations, other than make treatments to small plants, are not available.

For those interested in conventional postemergence herbicides, these are most effective when applied to seedling crabgrass plants. Two, sometimes more, treatments are often needed, especially when crabgrass plants are relatively large. Apply at 7-to 10-day intervals. Do not apply to drought stressed plants. Discoloration may occur on the desired turfgrass after the treatment is applied. Discoloration is generally more noticeable if the grass is under stress from heat or drought. Spraying the herbicides will be more effective than applying as a granular product. Do not irrigate for 24 hours after the appliation and do not apply if rain is forecast within 24 hours after the application.

Herbicides with postemergence activity on crabgrass that is less than the 4-tiller growth stage include: quinclorac (Drive, SquareOne ), mesotrione (Tenacity), and fenoxaprop (Acclaim Extra). Dithiopyr (Dimension) is primarily used as a preemergence herbicide but it does have postemergence activity on crabgrass plants in the 1- to 4-leaf growth stage.

The use rates and tolerance of desired turfgrasses varies among these herbicides, so consult the label for specific use information. You can also read more at: Crabgras and Goosegrass Control in Cool Season Turfgrass.