Cressleaf groundsel causing problems

By Deborah Reinhart Brown - Ag update

This year cressleaf groundsel is really bad! We’re seeing it in wheat and hayfields/pastures this year. The real problem with this is that cressleaf groundsel is poisonous to cattle, horses, goats, sheep, and humans because of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Symptoms include weight loss, unthriftiness, poor hair coat, anorexia, behavioral changes, sunscald, aimless walking, diarrhea, jaundice, liver damage, and possibly death. All parts of the plant are toxic.

Cressleaf groundsel can be identified by its hollow and grooved stem that has a purplish color on the lower areas, and yellow flowers that look like tiny sunflowers. This plant is a winter annual that emerges in late summer/fall. It can be controlled with herbicides, especially in the fall or early spring when plants are small and most susceptible to herbicides. Applying herbicides now won’t reduce the toxicity of these plants.

Drying or ensiling the plants when making hay/baling straw does not reduce the toxicity. Historically, no confirmed cases of poisoning by cressleaf groundsel have been reported by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, although liver lesions suggestive of PA poisoning have been observed on rare occasions. The presence of an occasional plant in a hay or wheat field is probably not cause for concern, but our advice is to avoid harvesting areas of the field that have high concentrations of the plants. At the very least, discard any hay or straw baled from those areas.

Cressleaf groundsel should not be present in hay fields following the first cutting. However, it is advisable to scout fields in late fall for the presence of newly emerged plants, and treat with herbicides if necessary. No, this is not a new problem, just one with increased presence this year. There is a fact sheet available at the OSU Weed Management website – Hover over “weeds”, and then click on “other” to get to it.

Cutworm damage has been seen in Ohio corn. Black cutworm (BCW) is the usual offender, though other species exist. Adults come in from the south in spring, lay eggs; once the eggs have hatched, the larvae feed on weeds until the weeds are killed and then move onto the corn planted in the field. An additional concern this spring is that most of the crop was planted relatively late and will be rather small when these larvae begin their heavier feeding. Therefore, the potential for plant injury and economic losses will be much higher than normal.

Insecticidal seed treatments do not offer much protection. Only some Bt corn trait packages provide BCW protection. Early detection of cutworm infestations and timely application of rescue treatments are the keys to achieving effective stand protection. Start scouting for BCW as soon as your corn begins to emerge. Rescue treatments can then be applied if necessary. More information about cutworm scouting, and management can be found at

Well, we knew our lives would be changing. It’s started!! James, Kimberly, and the grandkids will be moving into the farm house sometime in July. They were here almost a whole week over Memorial Day Weekend. James, Stanley, and Kimberly worked on the farmhouse: They’ve got all the carpet and that old icky-sticky-rubber padding from the 70s out and even got a wall removed! There’s still a lot to be done!! For the most part, I watched grandkids and made meals. I cooked more in that seven-day period than I have in the past four to five years! Since then it’s been a bit of catch-up and rest-up! It was good to watch the kids play outside, run back and forth, and feed the critters!

By Deborah Reinhart Brown

Ag update

The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at [email protected]

The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at [email protected]