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How To Remove Smutgrass

If you are a cattle rancher or in the agricultural industry, you are well aware of smutgrass. Smutgrass is perhaps the leading invasive weed species on pastures, especially in the southern parts of the U.S. The invasive, perennial bunchgrass, native to Asia, reseeds at an alarming rate.

When smutgrass seeds sprout onto your landscape, you’ll want to act fast. Not only is smutgrass unsightly, it can hinder crop cultivation. The invasive bunch grass offers little nutritional value and reduces the quality of hay for cattle to feed on.In bermudagrass hayfields, total forage removal gives smutgrass a greater chance to spread and establish more seedlings before the bermudagrass can regrow.

Smutgrass is very tough to control because depending on your approach, trying to eradicate smutgrass can be dangerous as it is a carrier of black smut fungus, which can do some serious damage on your desired vegetation. 

To get rid of smutgrass, it's important to first arm yourself with knowledge before you arm yourself with herbicides. You first need to know the background information on the weed and do a little bit of homework to see what conditions this type of weed likes, what it doesn’t like and then based on the information, approach with a control program for smutgrass. This is where we can best help.

At Solutions Pest and Lawn, we carry the best products to get rid of this troublesome plant. Browse our top recommended products for smutgrass control below and then scroll down further to learn a little bit about smutgrass and how you can eliminate this weed with the right technique and products.

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How To Get Rid of Smutgrass: Solutions 4 Step Process

Step One: Identification It's important to identify the type of weed you have to make sure that it is, in fact, smutgrass and not some other similar looking invasive weed. Correctly identifying the weed you are dealing with on your lawn will help you in acquiring more information about the weed such as what the weeds tendencies and characteristics are and also which one of our products can best treat that particular weed.

This is important because some more stubborn weeds have a high tolerance or resistance to particular herbicides and control methods and are specifically labeled for certain weeds and not for others. If you misdiagnose the weed on your lawn as smutgrass when it isn't, you may purchase a herbicide not meant to tackle it and it will lead to disappointing results and overall, a waste of money.

Smutgrass is a perennial warm-season grass which grows in tufts which can reach around 3 feet in height. Leaves are mostly basal, usually rolled, to around 1 foot long and 2 inches wide. Sheathes are hairless, while margins are hairy toward the apex. Ligules are obscure. There are two main species of smutgrass which are most common: small smutgrass and giant smutgrass. The distinguishing characteristic which can help you identify this plant is their slender, erect stems that have seedheads which look similar to rattails.

If you are unsure of what weed you have, you can contact us at identification@solutionsstores.com and send us a photo of your weed and we will identify it for you and suggest treatment options.


Step Two: Inspection. Once the plant has been properly Identified, you can then move to the inspection process. Smutgrass can be a problem in pastures, flatwoods, waste areas, prairies, fields, turf, and roadsides. It generally forms dense clumps in open sites of poor, compacted compact soils, but may occur elsewhere in open sites. Aside from checking the severity of its presence, also check what maturity level the smutgrass is at because if they are more mature, you're looking at a more difficult time removing the plant. 

Step Three: Control. Smutgrass can be a headache to hand pull and is largely ineffective. Small patches may be mechanically removed by hand, although this method is labor intensive. The best method by far is the use of herbicides.

A pre-emergent at the right time will protect against smutgrass. We recommend using Dithiopyr 2L Herbicide. As always with pre-emergents, timing is key or the product will not successfully keep the smutgrass from growing. Lay this out in the spring before you see any of the smutgrass.

If smutgrass is already growing on your lawn you can use Glyphosate or Roundup and spot treat your lawn. Before long the smutgrass will die out. You may need to do repeat applications after 7 to 10 days if the weed is particularly persistent and problematic. Smutgrass is known to develop a resistent so you can contact our experts to see which alternatives you can use if a product ended up not working or is giving disappointing results.


Step Four: Prevention. After you have eliminated smutgrass from your property, you need to implement culture practices and apply pre-emergent to prevent their return.If you keep your lawn or pasture healthy with proper mowing and fertilization, there will be very little room for this stubborn grass to grow. Continue laying out pre-emergent during the spring and fall to keep smutgrass from making a comeback.


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Learn More About Smutgrass 

Smutgrass is an aggressive bunchgrass that causes serious problems on ranges and pastures. It is most notably prevalent in Florida but also has spread to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Smutgrass is Native to tropical Asia which explains it’s tolerance for drought and thriving among conditions without needing moisture.


There are two main smutgrass species that are found in the U,S., small smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus) and giant smutgrass, which is also known as West Indian dropseed (Sporobolus indicus var. pyramidalis). Small smutgrass was once the predominant smutgrass species throughout Florida. Small smutgrass has a compact seedhead and is almost always infected with a black fungus called smut fungus. Smutgrass produces seeds from May to all through the summer throughout the Southeast. Mechanical control is not a good option in eliminating smutgrass as it can actually increase its seed production.


Smutgrass brings no nutritional value and is unpalatable to cattle. Cows don’t like to eat it and so when it begins to overtake an area, animals overgraze the more desirable grasses thus allowing smutgrass to spread even more.

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Smutgrass Control Options

Recommended Pre-emergent and Post-emergent Herbicides: Glyphosate 4 Plus Weed Killer ConcentrateAtrazine 4L HerbicideDithiopyr 2L Herbicide


As with any invasive weed, the ideal time to apply herbicides to control smutgrass is early and often, especially before the density of the weed is too great. Once smutgrass covers more than 50 percent of the pasture, it’s often too late for spot-treating. When an infestation gets up to 60 or 70 percent, you may have to renovate your entire pasture and start from scratch which can be quite costly. Hopefully, this wouldn’t have to be the case after using one of our recommended herbicide options above.


Spraying for smutgrass is usually not effective until the Spring season. This is when the plant is actively growing. Using RoundUp or Glyphosate is likely your best option in eradicating smutgrass, but bear in mind that Glyphosate is a non-selective weed killer so you should be extra careful in not allowing the chemical to get on your ornamentals or your other desired grasses and vegetation. We would recommend painting the chemical on the plants to be on the safe side, but if there’s a large infestation you have to deal with, that wouldn’t be practical.


The best time to apply post-emergent herbicides is when the weeds are actively growing. For many areas where smutgrass typically grows, it is in May and June when rainfall occurs more frequently. Other areas may do better spraying in July or August right in the middle of summer. What matters most when applying products to apply smutgrass is to lay out an application when it is expected to rain because the chemical tends to have better root uptake.


Whether you go selective or non-selective with your herbicide, you will likely have to conduct follow-up applications. Timing is important as you don’t want to apply the herbicide if there is rainfall expected to happen within days of the application.


Another thing to consider when applying herbicides is soil texture. You may need to adjust the rate of application for the herbicide you selected. On coarse-texture sandy soils, a lower rate is preferred. A higher rate is recommended on soils that are fine in texture, such as that of clay loams.


Better Safe Than Sorry: Equip Yourself With Protective Safety Equipment Before Spraying

Smutgrass Control Tips and Recommendations

  • Adding a surfactant to your pesticide may be a good idea that may help increase control of smutgrass by combating surface tension. Another good idea, especially on large ranges and pastures is to utilize a Spray Pattern indicator to mark areas of your lawn that you have already treated with herbicide to avoid over spraying.


  • Please follow instructions on the label when handling herbicides since they have the proper mixing rates. Using a hand-pump sprayer we would recommend is the best method of spraying herbicides on Smutgrass

  • Herbicides chemicals that are handled by lawn owners should always be applied with ther proper protection. Protect your eyes, skin, mouth and nose by wearing safety equipment and long sleeved clothes and closed shoes..

  • Be sure to browse our  knowledge base and check out our informative How-To Videos to get more a thorough walkthrough in applying the herbicides we carry.

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To get more information on eliminating smutgrass and other troublesome weeds in your land as well as receive free help over the phone, contact us at askapro@solutionsstores.com or call our customer service line at (800) 479-6583.


Additional Resources On Smutgrass

SS-AGR-18/AA261: Smutgrass Control in Perennial Grass Pastures


Smutgrass Management in Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass Pastures


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