Yucca plants, called soapweed by some, have nearly overrun many rangelands, particularly lately after several years in which drought plus grazing weakened many plants, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. And, dense stands of yucca, a plant that can develop rapidly once established on drier rangeland sites, can devastate grass production, he says.
Yucca plants produce a deep taproot that competes aggressively for the limited water in these soils. And, since cattle rarely eat it during summer, grass production decreases while yucca thrives.
Herbicides like Remedy, Tordon, Velpar, or Cimarron Plus can control yucca, Anderson points out, but only when each individual plant is sprayed directly. Meanwhile, general spraying of rangeland is cost prohibitive, although small patches can and should be controlled before they expand.
“When yucca covers too much land to spray, the only cost-effective way to reduce its impact is to winter graze. During winter, yucca often is the only green plant around. Cows actually will get down on their knees, lay their head sideways on the ground, and chew through the base of the plant to get to the moist, tender parts,” Anderson says. “After several consecutive winters of grazing, yucca stands can be reduced so grass again thrives during summer.”
Now that summer range is dormant for the winter, grazing will do little harm to your grasses. Ample summer rain also produced more grass than usual. This might be a good time to reclaim some of your rangeland back from yucca, Anderson says. Winter grazing is your best tool.
-- Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska forage specialist