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Control cheatgrass in October

JoAnne Skelly

For many of us, autumn is a time to slow down in the yard. However, if you had a cheatgrass problem this year, October is the time to put down a pre-emergent herbicide before cheatgrass seeds sprout. Dry cheatgrass is probably the most easily ignitable vegetation in Nevada. During years of above-average precipitation, a tremendous amount of this highly flammable grass can be present during fire season. If started on a windy day, a cheatgrass fire can produce flames in excess of 8 feet and travel 41⁄2 miles per hour. Dry cheatgrass can also serve as the kindling necessary to ignite hotter-burning plants such as big sagebrush and pinon, creating more intense wildfires.

Cheatgrass can be several inches to more than 18 inches tall. Typically, it has a nodding seed head. The leaves are bright green and hairy for a short time in late winter to early spring. However, they quickly dry out and turn reddish-brown and eventually straw color as the summer progresses.

Pre-emergent herbicides prevent seeds from germinating successfully and have to be applied before they start to grow. With cheatgrass, this means herbicides have to be applied in the fall. Here are some fall-applied pre-emergent herbicides that work on cheatgrass:



Amber, with the active ingredient trisulfuron. It can harm some desirable grasses, so read the label carefully.

Maverick contains sulfosufuron and is long-lasting. Consult the label for restrictions and rates.



Trifluralin is the active ingredient in Treflan. Always check labels for rates and application instructions.

An effective cheatgrass control program includes several techniques. Typically, the steps to long-term control are killing existing live cheatgrass plants in winter or spring; preventing cheatgrass plants from producing any seeds; preventing seed germination and seedling growth from cheatgrass seeds already in the soil; and reseeding cheatgrass control areas with desirable vegetation.

Make your home more fire resistant and control cheatgrass. For information on managing cheatgrass read the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension publication by Jay Davison and Ed Smith titled “A Homeowner’s Guide to Cheatgrass,” available at unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2005/fs0529.pdf.

Please note: brand names are provided for example purposes only. Other brands may also be licensed for use in Nevada. Information is offered with no discrimination. Listing a commercial product does not imply an endorsement by the author, UNCE or its personnel.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at 887-2252 or skellyj@unce.unr.edu