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Agriculture

October 16, 2006

Control of Sandbur in Oklahoma Lawns

Control of sandbur in Oklahoma lawns is possible using a well planned and executed management program. Sandbur is a warm-season grass commonly found on dry, low fertility sandy sites throughout Oklahoma. The weed derives its name from the spiny fruit that it produces, which contain the true seeds of this very drought resistant plant.

 A survey of sandbur species conducted earlier this decade from turfgrass areas in Oklahoma found that 98% of the types were of the species field sandbur and only 2% were of the long-spine sandbur species. Field sandbur often behaves as a short-lived perennial plant in Oklahoma, while the long-spine species usually behaves as a true summer annual. It is usually not feasible for the untrained observer to determine which species is present in their lawn. Contrary to the common name of each plant, it is not spine length but rather spine number that is used to determine which species is present. Now, who really would enjoy getting their microscope out and counting the number of spines on sandbur fruits?

 Sandbur management involves practicing an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. This involves using a well adapted warm-season and drought tolerant turfgrass such as bermudagrass in full-sun areas, followed by proper mowing, fertilizing and irrigating of the turf. Lastly, control of existing sandbur plants is achieved by supplementing the program with post-emergent herbicides and guarding against new sandbur plants using pre-emergent herbicides.

 Common or hybrid bermudagrass is often the best adapted turfgrass for lawns on sandy soils where sandbur plants are most often found. The desirable grass needs to be managed to provide 100% ground cover.

 About 3 to 5 lbs total of actual nitrogen is applied per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area per year in a sandbur management program. This total amount of nitrogen fertilizer is split into about 3 to 5 total applications during a growing season. On sandy sites, the use of slow or controlled release fertilizer is highly suggested. This is because sandy soil is a poor nutrient holding soil and if too much fertilizer is applied at one time, it will simply wash through the soil, out of the range of turfgrass roots and potentially pollute ground water.

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