Yorkshire fog - a useful pasture species or undesirable perennial grass?

AG ADVICE - November 2021

Clare Edwards - Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures

This spring, we have seen major growth in our pastures across the Central Tablelands. One of the grass species that is currently flowering is Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus). This is an introduced cool-season perennial grass that is native to Europe. It is commonly found in wetter areas of pastures, drainage lines and on roadsides.

Flowering in spring, Yorkshire fog often looks like a phalaris seed head to begin with, closed and green. Later it opens up to a more purplish – white seed head. A distinguishing feature is the leaves which are covered in fine hairs which are velvety to the touch.

There is ongoing discussion regarding the usefulness of Yorkshire fog as a pasture plant. Often regarded as weed of more fertile soils, it is a highly competitive plant that can form dense mats or swards and exclude other species. It is reported that the hairy leaves deter grazing. However, it can produce feed of moderate quality whilst it remains short and green. Once it matures and goes to the flowering stage, it becomes less palatable to livestock.

Yorkshire fog can thrive in light set-stocking grazing regimes, as stock will avoid eating it if given the choice. This year, with an abundance of feed and the wetter conditions over the last two springs, it is certainly present in many pastures.

Management of this species is best achieved using a combination approach of grazing, herbicides, pasture re-sowing, and fodder conservation. The exact approach will depend upon the specific situation. It is worth noting that, if you are considering re-sowing the pasture, established and long-term infestations of Yorkshire fog will need at least two years’ worth of active management before sowing a new pasture.

Decisions on pasture replacement also need to consider the appropriate pasture species for the area. In wet, poorly drained areas this might include species like tall fescue, white clover and ryegrass. It is also worth checking the soil pH, as sometimes these areas can be acid.

The ideal spring conditions this year have led to many of the pasture species coming out in flower. It is a great time to identify plants, assess perennial pastures and start to prioritise paddocks for different management works.

As always, Phil Cranney or myself are happy to discuss pasture management options.

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