An aggressive perennial weed called roughstalk bluegrass (pictured) is overtaking alfalfa-timothy fields in primarily the middle and thumb regions of Michigan, according to Wes Everman, weed scientist at Michigan State University.

“I’d never heard of it before the last few weeks. It’s started overtaking alfalfa fields – mostly alfalfa-timothy mixes,” Everman reported during an American Forage and Grassland Council tour of Michigan State’s research facilities last week.

“It starts to yellow and the leaves dry off, so, essentially, we have straw mixed in with alfalfa-timothy mixes. For a lot of our hay producers going to horse hay, that first cutting is where they make the bulk of their dollars for the year. They can’t sell this hay to horse people because of the rough texture of the stem. So it’s become a problem for us overnight,” Everman said.

He’s concerned with the weed’s prolific nature. “We’re seeing fields where it’s about the third year that’s seeded in alfalfa-timothy mixes. What I assume is that the first year it took a while to establish. It’s a cool-season grass, so didn’t start until fall. Growers said they saw a little bit that second year but thought, ‘It’s no big deal.’ ”

The third year, however, has become a big deal, Everman said. “I saw two fields last week that, when we pulled up to them, I thought they were CRP. It was pretty scary.”

Everman is using one infected area to test different types of weed control. View Everman’s June 18 report on roughstalk bluegrass. Anyone with experience or advice on the weed can contact the weed scientist at everman@msu.edu.

Tour participants mentioned that, if Roundup Ready alfalfa were on the market, it could be used to control the weed. The fate of the transgenic crop is still in limbo; an environmental impact statement is expected to be made available for public review next month and, if all goes well, could mean it will be back on the market by spring 2010, according to seed company representatives at the annual conference.