Spring Has Sprung

Being a turfgrass extension specialist, I get calls and questions ranging from basic to bizarre – I got one the other day pertaining to growing grass on fish pond banks irrigated with salt water. But the one I get most often is this: “what should I spray on my lawn to prevent weeds.” There’s no simple answer, and the conversation always twists and turns depending upon the person’s agronomic background and whether they have a pesticide applicator’s license.henbit

Before I make a recommendation, I try to gather as much information as possible. What type grass do you have? What’s your location? Do you have an applicators license? What it comes down to is usually this: time and money. But that’s not a quick and easy answer like most folks expect.

Grow Grass First – I suspect that 90% of the homeowner issues I encounter aren’t going to be solved by applying something from a jug. Proper fertility is important, and so is proper grass selection. But if you’re trying to grow bermudagrass under a live oak, herbicides aren’t going to help. I recommend this publication for a starter guide to homeowners. For coaches and athletic field managers, I recommend managing sports fields in MS. Inevitably, I get asked to come and visit. If it’s an emergency, and you’re dying to know what disease you’ve got, you’d be best off sending some high quality images and a sample to Clarissa over in the diagnostics lab.

Timing – The issues surrounding spring preemergence are too numerous to mention. Careers have been built upon understanding the most minute detail of single herbicide chemistries. Ultimately, timing is the major obstacle. It’s important to understand that not all pre’s work the same way, and they generally have very limited postemergence activity. That’s to say, if crabgrass has already germinated, guess what, you’re not going to preemergently control it. For most of MS, it’s not too late to apply a pre. Crabgrass has barely started to break in Starkville, and even if it already has down on the coast, you’ll have germination for the rest of the spring. If you are getting out there late, choose a pre/post combination, such as Barricade (prodiamine) tank mixed with Drive (quinclorac), or choose a herbicide that has both pre and postemergence control, such as Dimension (dithiopyr) or Specticle (indazaflam).

Mode-of-Action – If you’re battling resistance, or just trying to prevent it, you ought to be rotating modes-of-action (MOA’s). All of us need to be proper stewards of the chemistries we’ve got. Be aware that herbicides have different MOA’s. That is, they kill weeds differently. Some inhibit photosynthesis (atrazine and simazine); others inhibit cellulose biosynthesis (Specticle); still, others inhibit mitosis (DNA herbicides like prodiamine and pendulum). Here’s a list of common MOA’s. Notice that some are solely preemergently active (Pre). Others are pre/post active. And others are only post. Always read the label when applying any type of pesticide.

Common Turf Herbicide MOA's

Keep an eye out for future publications with more detail. And keep in mind that root pruning is a serious issue with almost all of the pre herbicides. Ronstar may be the safest to new roots of bermudagrass, but it’s expensive. If you suspect winter kill, you might want to avoid applying a pre to bermudagrass if you can keep from it. That said, you’ll have very few herbicides available for post control of problematic weeds like goose and crabgrass.


FormulationIf I were a homeowner and a DIY’er, I’d choose a granular weed and feed type application. It’s effective, as long as one gets good coverage, and it doesn’t require special spray equipment. DNA herbicides, such as prodiamine and pendimethalin, often come impregnated on both corn cob and/or fertilizer. I don’t typically recommend fertilizer prior to full green up, so buyer beware: fertilizer application isn’t needed until almost 100% green up. Look for the pre herbicide coated on an inert carrier like corn cob or fertilizer free granular.

There are numerous other variables, but these are the low hanging fruit.

Enjoy the warmer weather,



Yellow Woodsorrel

Christo Sullivan, Doug Martin, Jordan Billingsley 

AboutYellow Woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta) is a medium-sized edible plant that thrives in lawns and woodlands across the United States and Canada. It can also be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Japan and New Zealand. The flowers can be used to make yellow, orange, red and brown dyes. Another common name is “Oxalis”, which means “sour” due to its oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid can be toxic when consumed in large quantities because it inhibits the absorption of calcium. Yellow Woodsorrel is a cool season perennial in the Woodsorrel family (Oxalidacea), but may act as a summer annual in certain environments.  It reproduces by seed and occasionally stems.

Rose Garden by Oak tree (Small)

Identification – Yellow woodsorrel introduces itself from a taproot and forms small, erect, bushy plants up to 20 inches tall. The stems are slender, gray-green, pubescent, slightly ascending, and branched at the base. They will occasionally root at the nodes. The leaves of yellow woodsorrel are alternate with three heart-shaped leaflets. They are pale green, up to 4/5 inch across with long petioles. The flowers are yellow with five petals and are up to ½ inch across. It is often mat forming and more common in cools-season turf species, such as tall fescue. It can be very common in greenhouses and container nurseries because its seedpods can distribute seeds up to several feet.

MSU GC (Small)


Cultural– Hand-weeding is effective before seeds are formed.  As always, the best weed control is a dense turf sward. Proper mowing, fertilizing and irrigation ensure vigorously growing turf.

Chemical –

Many pre and post-emergent herbicides are effective.

Pre-emergent herbicides include:


Post-emergent herbicides include:


And many 3-way mixtures sold at in lawn and garden sections  (often labelled as Trimec Southern or for Broadleaf weed control).





Buckhorn Plantain

by Michael D. Denney, Dylan Botelyr, and Wes Dyer

Greenhouse pics (1) (Small)

Identification: Buckhorn Plantain is a rosette-forming perennial herb with leafless, hairy flower stems. The fruit is composed of egg shaped capsules 1/6” long containing either one or two seeds per flower. Leaves are football shaped and stand between three and 10 inches long with short hairs that spiral around the stem. The stalks grow upwards of 2 to 2.5 inches and have a dominant, strong taproot.

Characteristics: Buckhorn Plantain is characterized as being drought tolerant. Typically, the plant reproduces via seed and disseminated through airborne carriers or water. The seeds are oblong shaped and brown with one side having a glossy, light brown stripe.

Habitat: Environmental conditions favoring the growth of Buckhorn Plantain are vineyards, orchards, gardens, urban areas, turf, foot paths, and crop fields in general. Typically, Buckhorn Plantain prefers areas that have been plowed or disturbed in any manner.

San Marcos Dr. (1) (Small)Control: Control of Buckhorn Plantain consists of two measures, either pre-emergence or post-emergence herbicides. For pre-emergence control, Isoxaben is a good choice for minimizing germination.  Post-emergence control includes 2,4-D, Triclopyr, MCPA, and MCCP. Typically, 2,4-D has good activity on Buckhorn Plantain, while Triclopyr, MCPA and MCCP reduces plant vigor.  Buckhorn Plantain can be a difficult weed to control, but combining cultural practices, such as hand pulling, and herbicide use is the best approach for control.



Star of Bethlehem

by Ashley Averitt, Justin Hickman, and Kyle Grider

About Star-of-Bethlehem:

Star-of-Bethlehem belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae), which is closely related to wild garlic and wild onion. It has origins as a cool season perennial ornamental plant, but it has grown into an aggravating weed in home lawns, golf courses, and athletic fields.  This plant spreads by seeds and underground bulbs.  It emerges in the winter to early spring and flowers as temperatures increase, but once summer arrives the plant will enter dormancy.  This plant may be poisonous to grazing animals because it contains high levels of cardiac glycosides, especially in the bulbs.


Often confused with wild onion and wild garlic, Star-of-Bethlehem can be distinguished by darker green leaves, a pale green to white mid-rid, and is covered with a waxy coating.  When Star-of-Bethlehem is crushed or mowed it does not produce a strong odor.  Leaves are narrow and linear and will blossom a white, six petal flower with distinct green stripe underneath the petals in the spring.  Star-of-Bethlehem mainly produces from bulbs and rarely from seeds.  The bulb of Star-of-Bethlehem is noticeably larger than that of wild onion and wild garlic.

How to control Star-of-Bethlehem?

Cultural Practices:

  • Mowing:  prevents flowering and seed production. Come winter, be sure to raise the height at least 2 inches.
  • Hand picking, constantly, but make sure you pull out the entire bulb and bulblets.

Chemical Control

The following postemergence herbicides are available:

Dismiss and products containing Sulfentrazone have been shown to act more rapidly than other products.

Residential applications:

  • Dismiss (active ingredient (a.i.)sulfentrazone)

Rate/acre = 8-12 oz/A

  • Q-4 (sulfentrazone + quinclorac + 2,4-D + dicamba)

Rate/acre = 7-8 pints/A

  • RoundUp Pro (glyphosate) + Mowing (in dormant turf)

Professional Applicators:

Rate/acre = 2.1 oz/A

  • Surge (a.i.’s, sulfentrazone + 2,4-D + MCPP + dicamba)

Rate/acre = 3 to 4 pints/A

Non Residential Turf:

Rate/acre = 1-2 pints/A (2EC) or 0.5-1.0 pint/A (4EC)



Common Chickweed MSU GC (5) (Medium) (2)







by Ethan Flournoy, Doug Martin, and Dustin Miller


Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a member of the pink or carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Chickweed is typically 3 to 8 inches tall and can form a mat up to 16 inches in diameter. Leaves are pointed and oval shaped, with entire leaf margins that will grow in pairs from a half of an inch to one inch long. Small white star-like flowers occur in clusters with five deeply lobed petals that can grow up to an eighth of an inch in diameter. These flowers will develop into capsule-like fruits that contain seeds.


Chickweed prefers moist soils, but it can be found in open sunny areas as well as shaded areas. Chickweed can be found worldwide in any type of climate; however, in Mississippi, it is considered to be a winter annual. It is commonly found near buildings, trees or in landscape beds. Chickweed propogates by seed. It can produce as many as 15,000 seeds per plant.


There are three types of control for chickweed: cultural, biological, and chemical.

Cultural control can include hand weeding; however, this is most effective while the weed is in its juvenile state. If hand pulled when mature, it can cause significant seed dispersal. In a landscape environment, a two inch layer of mulch can suppress new weeds. In maintained turf, the best prevention is to monitor irrigation and fertilizer applications in order to maximize turf health and competitiveness.

For biological control, grazing has been reported as an effective tool.

Chemical control requires both pre- and post-emergence herbicides. Balan, dimension, and barricade are preemergence herbicides that have good activity on chickweed. Dicamba, Trimec, Surge, and Speedzone are selective post-emergent herbicides often used to control chickweed.

View current weed control guidelines for Mississippi at MSUcares.com.

Turf Weeds Blog Project

Wix Site

Christian Baldwin and I sat down during my first week at Starkville and talked about a project that combined three main objectives:

Primarily, it introduces turf students to a range of weeds they’ll encounter in the turf industry.

Secondly, it reinforces writing and composition. These skills are critical for all professional turf managers.

Finally, it uses blogging and social media as a means of communicating meaningful information.

To complete the project, we enlisted the help of colleagues in Ag communications and set out to analyze our progress. We took before data, like: have you blogged before? Do you follow any blogs? And questions about social media.Finally, the project incorporates blogging and social media.

Now student contributors are actively creating content for our Mississippi Turfgrass Site.