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For years I’ve been fighting the growth of Hoary Cress (also known as White Top) on our property. Being a no spray kind of Farm family, we needed to find a way to eliminate the noxious weed before it took over our property or landed itself as a happy little grower on the neighbor’s property!
Hold on, we’re about to go on a roller coaster ride!
To begin with, we learned about the weed from a guy on a 4-wheeler who was driving around the neighborhood spraying the stuff. He worked for the county and had been spraying at a neighboring farm and asked if we wanted our pastures sprayed. No thanks, I replied, and then began a frantic search for and remedy to the weed.
My options were: spray, pull, burn, flood or overseed a competing plant.
The thing is, none of those seemed to be a sure-fire way of eliminating this hardy but pesky weed!
We started with pulling. We pulled and pulled and could reasonably pull about 20% of the patch in the round pen in about an hour. Problem is, it was truly back breaking work and we had so much more to do! And, although the round pen at the time had the biggest patch, there were more patches dotted here and there throughout our ten acres.
To pulling, we added seeding. We tore up the lower pasture and seeded it heavily for two years with three types of clover and alfalfa. It definitely made a dent in crowding out the weed as we saw the patch in that field reduce significantly! Hooray! Success!
Four years. Four years we pulled the weed every Spring, never getting it all but always making a dent in the production.
Fast forward to this year…
The pigs’ pasture. We sold all of our pigs last year so we could have space and time to re-do that pasture and the farrowing stalls before we re-boot our pig program. The rooted-up field was flooded with the white blossoms in the Spring! This was a bigger patch than we had ever had to pull plus there were small patches dotted here and there throughout the property. I pulled. With less gusto to be sure because it was truly a daunting job!
I got this great app last year at the encouragement of my son. It’s called “Picture This”. I’ve had the best fun roaming the fields, snapping pictures of everything growing and learning about it!
One thing I learned is…. that’s not White Top. What!? What you see in the picture above is… Field Pennycress. Sigh.
Hoary Cress and Field Pennycress are, you guessed it, both cresses. They are in the mustard family. To save my pride a little, they are often confused for each other, like my friend Jackie and her twin sister Stacie.
Pennycress has some culinary, medicinal and manufacturing value. Some farmers are experimenting with domesticating it for use in oils and as a cover crop. My app said it was fodder for cattle! Imagine my excitement!
Sigh. Upon further research, Pennycress is NOT good fodder for cattle! Eaten in moderation, it won’t hurt your cow. They won’t eat it unless they have to anyway. For instance, if we gated them in to the pasture with nothing but Pennycress in it… which, thankfully, we did not. But we certainly could have!
Pennycress in large amounts can cause poisoning, abortion and death in cattle and, at the very least, make the meat taste a little funky.
So, I’m back to pulling. And managing that pasture just moved itself higher on to the ever-growing to-do list here on the Farm this Spring.
So, what about the Hoary Cress? Well, we do have that, too. It is in much smaller patches here and there around the Farm.
Pennycress has yellow green leaves. Hoary Cress has blue green leaves. Pennycress grows on our Farm to about 2ft in height. Hoary Cress is about 6in. I suppose it depends a lot on soil and weather.
So, the take-away is this: Get your information from more than one source. Know what’s growing in your pasture. Just keep pulling those weeds… And have a glass of wine at the end of the day! Good luck!