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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week



Permalink How can I control hairy buttercup organically?

Answer: Hairy buttercup is a winter annual that germinates in the fall and flowers in the spring. Non-chemical control is possible and will require a holistic approach. The best way to inhibit buttercup infestations is through plant competition and reducing seed production. It's likely you'll need to combine several of the following management ideas to effectively get the weed under control over the next few years.

1. Allow adequate regrowth of forages after grazing. This better allows forages to grow and outcompete weeds. Separate the field into paddocks with electric wire or tape and allow for no more than three to five days of grazing and at least 30 days of regrowth before grazing again. Rotate the animals throughout the grazing season with regrowth (recovery period) in mind. Overgrazing occurs when animals begin to consume forages that are beginning to regrow, thus diminishing their ability to recover from grazing. This reduces leaf area as well as root mass, and weeds can then fill in their space.

2. Consider grazing fields with buttercup very lightly in the fall, or not at all. Fields that are dense in grasses can provide shade and inhibit buttercup germination. Let the forages get tall in the late summer, say eight to 10 inches of growth, and defer grazing until the winter after the buttercup would have germinated.

3. If the weed is a persistent problem, there is likely a large seedbank in the soil. You can terminate the field in the fall through tillage and plant a dense, diverse cover crop such as annual rye or annual ryegrass and a legume (Austrian winter pea, crimson clover, or hairy vetch). The field could be grazed in the spring and then either: (1) planted to a diverse perennial pasture again; or (2) put into a summer cover such as forage peanuts, soybeans, buckwheat, or sorghum-sudan. Then, you could overwinter again with a fall cover crop and plant permanent pasture the following spring. This method will provide competition to germinating buttercup plants and ensure a reduction in seed development during the spring. It will also provide organic matter that will benefit soil health and resilience.

4. There are no effective organic herbicides for use on pasture weeds. However, vinegar can be used as a "burn down" chemical if spot spraying is warranted. This chemical does not kill the plant, it only defoliates it allowing the forages a chance to grow. Vinegar is non-selective and will harm forages, as well.

For more information on topics related to pasture management, see the Livestock and Pasture section of the ATTRA website.

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