Winter grazing is the best tool for removing the yucca that has invaded rangeland in much of western and central Nebraska, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage agronomist.
Dense stands of yucca, also called soapweed, can devastate grass production, says Anderson.
“Yucca plants develop rapidly once established on drier rangeland sites,” he says.”They produce a deep taproot that competes aggressively for the limited water in these soils. Since cattle rarely eat it (yucca) during summer, grass production decreases while yucca thrives.”
Herbicides such as Remedy, Tordon, Velpar or Cimarron Plus can control it, but only when individual plants are sprayed directly. General spraying of rangeland is cost-prohibitive, although small patches of the weed can and should be controlled before they expand.
“When yucca covers too much land to spray, the only cost-effective way to reduce its impact is to winter graze. During winter, yucca often is the only green plant around. Sometimes cows actually will get down on their knees, lay their head sideways on the ground, and chew through the base of the plant to get to the moist, tender parts. After several consecutive winters of grazing, yucca stands can be reduced so grass again thrives during summer.”
Grazing will do little harm to the dormant grass, and thanks to ample summer rain, more than the usual amount is available for winter grazing, says Anderson.
“This might be a good time to reclaim some of your rangeland back from yucca,” he says.