Will the prairie strips make my crops more weedy?
Most prairie plants will not become weeds in crop fields where annual crops are grown and subjected to conventional weed management practices.
Prairie plants can be competitive once they become established, but most take multiple years to become established. On land that is regularly tilled or where herbicide is applied at least annually, it is unlikely that the prairie plants will become established. Prairie plants have the potential, however, to become established in no-till fields if herbicides are not used.
- During establishment, prairie strips are likely to contain annual weeds, such as foxtail, waterhemp, lambsquarters, horseweed, velvetleaf, and ragweed (giant and common), which germinate from the soil seed bank. If the prairie strips are mowed regularly during the establishment years, the amount of weed seed that is produced and spread to the neighboring cropland can be minimized. If the weed seed bank is low on the site where the prairie is established, the potential for weed seed spread is even lower.
- As the prairie becomes established – after the first or second year depending on the existing seed bank – the number of annual weeds will greatly decrease, and the prairie should no longer be a source of annual weeds for neighboring cropland.
- Prairie strips also may be susceptible to invasion by perennial weeds, such as Canada thistle, which could then spread into neighboring cropland. Spot spraying with herbicides is an effective strategy for suppressing perennial weeds in prairie strips, particularly as prairie plants mature and become more competitive with the weed species. Perennial weeds can be controlled in annual row crops by applying herbicide or tilling.