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Earlier this fall I posted about troubles I've had with screening on a larger plot using Egyptian Wheat and this year a tall sorghum substituted for EW. I'm yet again brainstorming about how to attack the situation this year.
In quick summary, last year I planted a tall variety of sorghum in a 25' strip along one side of this long 7 acre field as well as several strips out in the field. The goal was to break up the field, create more edge effect and hopefully provide enough screen to allow ingress / egress along the west side of this field.
At the end of August it looked "OK" and was about 6' tall in this picture but I hoped to see some of it get a little taller before going to seed.

Unfortunately not long after this picture, we had 6-7" of rain in 24 hours with a tropical storm which lodged the sorghum. A few weeks later we had Hurricane Mathew roll through and lodge what hadn't already been damaged.
With 45-60 days of growing conditions and plenty of moisture the sorghum sprouted from the stem where it had lodged and in a lot of cases still put on a seed head, although it was 3-4' tall at that point. By December, this is what it looked like.

So as I walked through the field the other day, I started looking at the Johnsongrass that had come up in the sorghum. The Johnsongrass grew in some cases to 7-8' tall, never lodged, is still standing at the end of the year and would cost me zero time or money to allow it to have its way with the field. In fact it would do a lot better without me trying to kill it, and may in fact be my answer to a screen for this field.


Of course, raising the white flag on Johnsongrass is a hard pill to stomach. I don't have a major problem with Johnsongrass in my other plots and fields, but I know how easy it is to spread. I know the rhizomes can grow up to 300 feet a year and the seeds survive for a long time in the seed bank. I know the "proper" answer is to hit the Johnsongrass hard and be done with it.
But here is the thing. This is land I am leasing on an annual basis. I may have it 20 more years or I could loose it tomorrow. I can't move the road along the edge of the field and it provides primary access to 100 acres or so of productive hunting area including the duck pond. I don't want to plant it in trees/shrubs and I'm apprehensive of using something like Miscanthus.
So my long-winded question - would I be slap crazy to just let the Johnsongrass do what it is going to do in the tall strips? I can either let it run rampant all summer over the whole field and go in each fall and lay out my strips of the LC mix, or I can spray it a few times over the summer and keep the areas I want to plant somewhat managed and let the strips go.

What would you do?
Would you do it if you owned the land or had a long term agreement? There is more to what we do than simply our own personal short term desires.

You promote an invasive on my place and you will get the boot in short order! I see it as an act of poor stewardship - that's my personal opinion.

I understand it may get you what you want.....but what about what is left behind? You had some bad weather that resulted in your efforts not panning out. That doesn't mean your efforts are wrong. Some folks experience a drought and their plot dies.....doesn't mean they should quit plotting and turn to feeders.
Good point J-bird and let me clarify. If it was my land yes I would aggressively treat the johnsongrass. I would also move the road completely out of the field and rework access through the property. You make an excellent point about stewardship of the resource. I have not conveyed all the things I have done to better the place while throwing my thoughts out for feedback on the johnsongrass issue.

I certainly would not "promote" the johnsongrass. My thought is more along the lines of not fighting it as aggressively or as completely as I have in the past. Let it do what I need while continuing to keep it out of my other plantings.

This is certainly not the first year with a screen that has not met expectations in this field. This goes back 5 years with addressing some soil fertility issues, sugar cane aphids etc. Basically I'm striking out year after year with screening this field and I'm at the point of wondering if I shouldn't just make lemonade.

To the question of the johnsongrass preceeding me...yes it was there when I started leasing the place. At the beginning I would estimate the field was 80-90% infested. Today I would say I have it down to 30-40%.
If you didn't bring it in and it was had already taken the place over and you just want to leave a few strips I see no problem with that. My dad fed some Johnson Grass round bales in different spots on the property and we have patches of it here and there on our Home 10 property but the deer do utilize those areas in their travel and bedding so I haven't fought it...If it starts spreading outside the boundary I have established for it I will fight it at that point but invasives never seem to be a problem out there since drought usually sets everything back every year anyway...
I'll take all the johnsongrass seed and rhyzomes you don't want...and refund your shipping!
Well now I have seen it all! Someone who wants johnsongrass!!!! I have a place where if I don't maintain it you would swear I intentionally planted it there. I simply control/manage it - I will never see the true end of it! I read somewhere that in the south they feed it to cattle and makes good summer forage for them because of how it grows so well and fast in the warm months.

You want some JG and are ever in my neighborhood - you are welcome to all you want!!!!
longleaf - for dividing your plots - will switchgrass work? I am not sure of it's application that far south. The switchgrass I have would work great for visual barriers to break up plots to keep deer from seeing other deer. It however won't hide people because it doesn't get that tall (mine gets about 5 feet not counting seed heads). It is also fairly cheap compared to most of the other tall native grasses and easier to seed as well.

Something else to possibly consider is bicolor-lespedeza maybe? I know some consider it an invasive as well. It is non-native but has been used for wildlife plantings as far back as the 1940's. Some folks use it like a hedge row as well that may lend itself to your application. I know they use it in the south in a shrub form for quail habitat. I have zero experience with it so I'm just tossing it out there as something that may be worth looking at.

You can try to JG just talk to the land owner first. I fear it may increase the presence of it on other areas of the farm.....
Doug I could put you in the poor house with shipping charges on the volume I could send. Maybe we could work something out on some duck hunting out your way and I'll bring you all I can fit in the truck. Of course one of us ought to look up what the law is on interstate transport of "tall kudzu" aka "johnsongrass".

Actually Doug I would be interested in your opinion on JG knowing you have cows but are also very much in the know on native plant communities and restoring native grazing. Cattlemen here cuss it in their bermuda pastures but still end up baling it and spreading it all over.

j-bird - I would love to plant switchgrass and from what I have seen on other properties around South Carolina it does do well here. Alamo is popular as is Shelter varieties. The issue I have heard from folks around here with planting switchgrass is the need to eradicate the Johnsongrass before attempting switchgrass. I believe Sulfosulfuron will kill JG in established switch but it is not cheap. However - yes that is an option but as you point out I may spend $400-$500/acre to get it established and then it likely will not give me the height I want in a screen.

Bi-color is out. It's basically a woody version of JG and it is deciduous so it's really not helping screen year round. An interesting fact about Bi-color, for all the praise of it as a saving grace for quail, numerous studies have failed to demonstrate quail eat the seed from bi-color and the woody nature of bi-color stands is not preferred nesting or brooding cover for quail either.

I've also considered Chickasaw plum which is an excellent native shrub around here - but alas it takes 4-7 years to reach a decent height and is also deciduous.

The only thing I can come up with shrub/tree-wise is an evergreen like cedar or white pine. Again it is not a quick screen, is somewhat costly and will ultimately increase shading on a long narrow field that already has issues with shading.

You are starting to see the quandary I'm in and why the thought of just not fighting the johnsongrass and directing that time and money elsewhere.
Ducks are few and far between here right now...weird year!

Haven't seriously pursued buying JG seed yet....there is one place in TX which has it for sale. Just been handpicking seeds from local county roads and spreading around mineral feeder. Most of what we have came from hay bales or creek flooding. Don't have enough to be a major concern.

Funny you mention Kudzu...the beasty vine....we went to Cookeville TX for a grazing grew from the road side to the fence row.....but never in the pasture! Cattle will knock the hell out of it!

Sounds like they are selling Bermuda hay to the horse people....they want all fine leaves. I know one thing cattle do poorly on pure Bermuda without diversity....and secondly you lose grazing days per acre and calf cover with a low/one height grass canopy. What I want here is more complexity and diversity in Bermuda....a good way to do that is grow a taller grass canopy which shades the Bermuda keeping it higher quality for longer time....the tall stuff can be Johnson, switch, or NWSG from the latent seed really doesn't matter to me...I just want that next tier of grass! Very old school philosophy....a mix of short mid and tall grasses! We have tall NWSG coming in Bermuda with the change in grazing but it is a very slow process!

Under good grazing management JG isn't an issue for most people...and I know people who make a good living grazing it! There are some small areas of the country (mainly 20-30" rainfall zones) where JG is almost constantly toxic. You have to watch your cattle and your grazing time and the weather and N timing. This herd will strip the head and leaves and upper stem of the JG plant...and that is the time to move them....graze no shorter than 6". Don't come back on it until it is at least 12" and preferably 2+' tall regrowth. Stay off it 2 weeks after first frost. Thirdly make sure cattle have plenty of other plants in the pasture to combat the toxicity.....lesdpedeza seems to be their remedy for many late summer grass forage anomalies. They first self medicate on lespedeza then hit the other stuff.
All the cattlemen I know fight Johnson Grass to some extent (basically to keep it from spreading), but use it their benefit also. They know when and how to graze it with their herd. I watched my dad fight it for years with eradication in mind. Once he decided that cattle love the stuff and a simple rotation kept it at bay he became much happier. Also spent a lot less on chemicals.
As I understand it that was why it was introduced in this country during the Johnson administration. It came form the middle east I think. It grew well in drier and humid areas and grew fast enough to be a decent forage. It was brought in to feed cattle in the south. again - that's just what I have read - I wasn't alive during the Johnson administration! we all have it! Or at least most of us anyway. I have it real bad in my south bottom as the flood waters tends to just keep bringing it to me. I can also tell where deer traffic is as there is sure to be JG there as well as the deer carry the seed in their coats. I gave up eradicating it - I just try to control it and slowly push it back as much as I can.
As I understand it that was why it was introduced in this country during the Johnson administration. It came form the middle east I think. It grew well in drier and humid areas and grew fast enough to be a decent forage. It was brought in to feed cattle in the south. again - that's just what I have read - I wasn't alive during the Johnson administration! we all have it! Or at least most of us anyway. I have it real bad in my south bottom as the flood waters tends to just keep bringing it to me. I can also tell where deer traffic is as there is sure to be JG there as well as the deer carry the seed in their coats. I gave up eradicating it - I just try to control it and slowly push it back as much as I can.

"Johnson grass or Johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense, is a plant in the grass family, Poaceae, native to the Mediterranean region, but grows throughout Europe and the Middle East. The plant has been introduced to all continents except Antarctica, and most larger islands and archipelagos."

"It is named after an Alabama plantation owner, Colonel William Johnson, who sowed its seeds on river-bottom farm land circa 1840. The plant was already established in several US states a decade earlier, having been introduced as a prospective forage or accidentally as a seedlot contaminant"
Graze JG on a 5-7 week recovery schedule.....longer will also work if leaves don't shatter. If it spreads or maintains a stand will depend on the stock density and degree of impact you run across it.....maintains under moderate stock density and increases at high stock density.....70,000 lb/per acre over a few days is the tipping point.

It is usually not a problem for JG to stand through fall as a long it stands after first hard frost varies from year to year. If you want it to screen then mow off the prior year growth in early spring and do nothing else.....under good growing conditions plants will have two waves of tillers and stems. The second stems are the strongest and support the first. It is just like sorghum or corn.....if lodging is an issue then soil potassium issues are likely culprit.

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In our area Johnson Grass certainly would make a great screen as it stands when everything else is down. As I said before I do see deer using it for some bedding and they use it for cover when crossing open type areas. On our Home 10 I am tolerating it because it seems to be very slow to spread but that may be because the soil out there is crap and the place is in a continuous drought. I do not want it to get a foothold on our 80 where we live because I am afraid it would do TOO WELL here... I know pine tree seedlings I planted in 2014 on our 80 are head and shoulders taller than pine tree seedlings I planted on home 10 in 2012...