Target Leafy Spurge Before Patches Become Whole Pastures
September 12, 2008
Digging DeeperFor more information see Noxious Weeds of Nebraska: Leafy Spurge (EC174). A publication on each of Nebraska's noxious weeds is available online at extension.unl.edu/publications.
Leafy spurge, one of Nebraska's official noxious weeds, is an aggressive weed in many grasslands and needs to be actively controlled. In some places, entire sections of land have been overrun by this plant, making them virtually worthless. Cattle won't eat it, which is fortunate because the plant contains a toxin that causes scours, weakness, and even death.
Controlling leafy spurge on large areas can be costly and difficult. A better strategy is to treat small patches, especially in CRP fields, before they spread.
Fall herbicide treatments on actively growing plants are one way to help control leafy spurge. On many grasslands, the best treatment is to use Plateau herbicide, which is only available from certain governmental agencies like your NRD or county weed district. Apply 8 to 12 ounces of Plateau per acre at least two weeks before a killing freeze this fall. This treatment is quite effective and does not injure most native grasses or wildflowers. Another option that's better for cool-season pastures is a tank-mix of Tordon 22K and 2,4-D. This mix is slightly less expensive, but may not always work as well.
Don't expect to eliminate leafy spurge in just one or two years. Spray again each spring when plant tops of escaped leafy spurge start turning bright yellow. Also, new seedlings often appear after a year or two. Reexamine your grasslands each spring and if new leafy spurge seedlings appear, control them while they're small and easier to kill.
Extension Forage Specialist