What’s the best way to control cheatgrass in my pasture, using goats or flame weeding?
Answer: Cheatgrass is an aggressive annual grass that germinates in late winter or early spring. It’s best to use and repeat control techniques early in the season before flowering and seeding. Grazing and flame weeding can be used in conjunction or individually depending on your circumstances. Cows, sheep, and goats will eat cheatgrass. Grazers prefer to eat the younger plants but can be encouraged with sweetness by spraying the pasture with a water and molasses solution. According to an article published by the University of Idaho’s Rangeland Ecology and Management program, http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/rx-grazing/Grasses/Cheatgrass.htm, targeted grazing is an effective tool to control cheatgrass using heavy, repeated grazing for two or more years. This treatment method reduces plant density, size, and seed production. The article also notes that grazing should be closely monitored to avoid damage to desirable perennial plant species. Flame weeding, a thermal weed control, uses propane gas burners to produce a carefully controlled and directed flame that briefly passes over weeds, searing the leaves and causing the weed to wilt and die. Flame weeding, as a non-chemical weed management technique, is frequently used by organic farmers. Weeds are most susceptible to flame weeding when they are seedlings, one or two inches tall. Broadleaf weeds are more susceptible to lethal flaming than grasses. Grasses develop a protective sheath by the time they are approximately one inch tall and may require a second flaming. Repeated flaming can likewise be used to suppress perennial weeds such as field bindweed. Flame weeding in pasture should be used with caution depending on the time of year or moisture and temperature so that the flames can be easily contained. For more information on grazing and pasture management, see ATTRA publication Pastures: Sustainable Management at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=247. This publication addresses numerous aspects of sustainable pasture integration, grazing rotation strategies, and management options. It covers grazing systems, pasture fertility, changes in the plant community through grazing, weed control, and pasture maintenance. It also discusses planning and goal-setting and offers an appendix item on trees in pasture settings. For more information on flame weeding, see the ATTRA publication Flame Weeding for Vegetable Crops at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=110. This publication discusses different strategies for pre-emergent flame weeding and post-emergent flame weeding, as well as infrared weed control and steam and hot water weed control. Further references, including sources of information and equipment, are also provided.