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grassland seed weeds

Weeds of Grassland

IN spite of the increased attention paid to grassland farming in recent years, there is still a vast area of permanent grass of poor quality, and since the reduction of weeds is intimately associated with the best means for securing its improvement, the issue by the Ministry of Agriculture of “Weeds of Grassland” (prepared by H. C. Long, and published by H.M. Stationery Office, price 5s. net), should prove of great value. At the outset, emphasis is laid on the necessity for using clean seed when sowing land down to grass, as injurious weeds are readily introduced, and instances of the special dangers in the case of the rye-grasses and clovers are cited. The principles in eradicating weeds from grassland are those which make for general improvement in the herbage, and in many cases attention to drainage, manuring, grazing, etc., rather than direct methods of destruction (though spraying is considered), will lead to the eradication of undesirable species. A large number of the worst weeds that occur on grassland are dealt with individually, classification being made according to the natural orders to which they belong. A. short botanical description, in which technical terms are so far as possible avoided, coupled with 92 illustrations (18 of which are coloured) from seeding to fruiting stages, renders identification a comparatively simple matter, and points of interest such as the association of a weed with certain soil conditions, its possession of poisonous or other special properties, as well as the best methods for its eradication, are given in each case.

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Weeds of Grassland. Nature 130, 993–994 (1932).

Issue Date : 31 December 1932

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Grassland reseeds: weed control

As any form of soil cultivation can disturb the weed seed bank, it is important to check new leys regularly for any signs of weed infestation. Weeds are best controlled in new leys when the grass is at the two-to-three leaf stage. However, spot control of docks and chickweed at the seedling stage can be important.

For more information on dealing with weeds, consult a BASIS adviser.


Chickweed is an annual plant that poses a real threat to autumn reseeds. It originates from seed that has lain dormant in the soil. Its rapid growth can quickly shade out seedlings of newly sown species.

Control measures for chickweed:

  • Heavy grazing with cattle or sheep can be used to eradicate chickweed, although the newly sown ley must be able to withstand this pressure
  • Harrowing may be effective in more established swards – topping is not effective
  • Herbicides containing fluroxypyr and florasulam are suitable for grass-only swards
  • Herbicides containing tribenuron-methyl are suitable for swards containing clover


Dock seeds can last up to 25 years in soil and germinate rapidly after soil disturbance. Docks have a deep taproot and, once established, are hard to remove. Mature plants can produce up to 60,000 seeds per year, posing a significant long-term challenge.

Control measures for docks:

  • Docks must be targeted at the seedling stage to achieve effective control
  • The optimum time to spray docks is late spring due to the rapid growth period before flowering
  • There is a range of herbicides available for controlling docks, some of which are clover-safe
  • Spot spraying may be an effective way of controlling docks early on without checking development of the new sward


Typically found in damp, acidic soils. Rapid germination in spring and early summer will smother grass seedlings.

Control measures for redshank:

  • Best treated at the rosette stage
  • Effective herbicides include 2,4-D or dicamba

Thistles, nettles and buttercups

Although less common in new leys, these weeds can still hinder sward productivity.

Thistles can be spread by windblown seed or underground roots.

Control measures for thistles, nettles and buttercups:

  • Cut plants early to prevent seeding
  • Effective herbicides include 2,4-D, clopyralid, fluroxypyr and triclopyr
  • Deep cultivations when reseeding


Ragwort is a biennial plant with leaf development in the first year and flowering in the second. It is highly toxic to stock and humans and is spread by windborne seed.