Dangers of the buttercup

Published 8:41 am Thursday, June 7, 2018

Buttercups are cool-season, perennial weeds that takes over pastures, lawns, hay fields and areas of turfgrass. This time of year, they can act as a yellow blanket to most pastures in our area. Buttercups pose a problem to pastures in our area because they compete with beneficial pasture forages such as tall fescue and orchard grass. Not only do buttercup species choke out necessary forages, they are also toxic to some livestock. Livestock species that are most affected are horses and cattle. The plants contain the toxin known as protoanemonin. This toxin is not considered highly toxic, but can be harmful if consumed in large quantities. Toxicity levels are also determined by the amount consumed by the livestock, the stage of growth of the plant, environmental conditions and buttercup species. It also depends on the animal doing the consumption, horses are more affected than cattle. Naturally, livestock species will avoid consuming buttercups if other forages are readily available. Many hayfields in this area are blanketed in buttercups. When making hay from a field with buttercups, the drying process of the hay inactivates the toxin in the buttercups. There are many different species of buttercups, but control remains fairly consistent. 2,4-D, a broadleaf herbicide, has been shown to provide good control for buttercup species. Producers are hesitant about using broadleaf controls because of the loss of valuable legumes, such as clover or lespedeza. In some instances, white clover has shown to have some tolerance against 2,4-D. Other control options are: 2,4-D Clarity/ Banvel, Crossbow, Chaparral, Grazon Next HL or Grazon P+D, Metsulfuron, Milestone, Overdrive, Pasture-gard, Remedy, Roundup/Glyphosate, Stinger, Surmount, and various combinations of those listed above. The best time to spray is in the early bud stage, which is two weeks before flowering or in the fall. For more information about reading labels, weed identification, weed control, forage identification and other agricultural needs, contact your local Extension Agent.