Rocky View County (RVC) is reminding residents to consider taking action to limit the spread of foxtail barley, particularly in areas of high disturbance, drought-damaged fields, or lands with high saline content in their soils.
While foxtail barley is native to the prairie, it thrives in warm, dry weather and can quickly take over areas where there is not much other competition from grasses or other plants.
Mowing or pulling the plant by hand is the most effective way to prevent foxtail from spreading and going to seed, explained RVC agricultural services officer Delaney McNaughton.
“Glyphosate can be an effective herbicide to control foxtail, but spot treatment is recommended as it is a non-selective herbicide that will take out favourable vegetation that out competes foxtail,” she said. “Foxtail is one of a few species which grows in saline soil so ongoing management will be required throughout the growing season.”
Since foxtail barley is a native species, it is not subject to the Alberta Weed Control Act. But McNaughton recommended county residents get ahead of the problem by being proactive in their weed management.
RVC does do some limited management of foxtail barley on public lands, she confirmed.
“Mowing throughout the growing season to prevent foxtail from going to seed is the best action at this time,” McNaughton stated. “While Rocky View County does not specifically target foxtail in its mowing program, municipal reserves are cut once per year and ditches are cut once or twice per year.”
Perhaps one of the biggest threats foxtail barley poses in RVC is to pets and livestock if left unchecked.
“The barbed seed head of foxtail grass can make it harmful for pets and livestock and therefore it is important for pet owners to keep pets on a leash or avoid the areas where foxtail is present,” McNaughton said, adding that preventing the weed from growing to the point where it produces a seed head is key to limiting its spread.
“Foxtail barley is an annual plant with shallow, fibrous roots and therefore it primarily spreads by seeds,” she explained. “The seeds will germinate in areas with poor competition due to saline soil, drought, or areas prone to flooding.”