Low-end GPS guidance systems, boomless sprayers, and rope wick applicators may be cost-efficient tools for controlling pasture weeds, says John Byrd, Extension research professor of plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University.

“Precision agriculture technology has been widely adapted by many farmers for row crops,” he said for the annual pasture tour of the Starkville/MSU Ag Club. “We’ve been looking at the potential for utilizing this technology for spraying pastures to avoid skips, oversprays, and other problems related to ‘eyeballing’ trips across a pasture.”

Bottom-end GPS units can be purchased for $1,200 or so, Byrd says, and will provide a basic level of accuracy for spraying. Their usefulness is not limited to spraying, he notes; they can also be used for fertilizer applications as well as overseeding forage grasses and legumes.

“If you want a unit that will map your farm, control the sprayer, and have other functions, the technology is available, but it gets to be on the pricey side. I can’t justify it for my work, and I expect a lot of farmers can’t either.”

An ATV with a boomless sprayer, equipped with Hy-Pro, Boom Buster, Boominator, or TeeJet BoomJet Flat spray tips, and a GPS system can be useful for pasture spraying, he says.

“These tips are available to produce various application widths and volumes and seem to produce spray patterns that result in excellent weed control.

“Foxtail is our No. 1 weed control problem in pastures,” Byrd says. “None of the products we’ve evaluated has given consistent control at a level I’d recommend for cattle producers. The best we’ve done is 60 percent control, and the cost is $23 for a single shot, with two shots needed for that level of control. I don’t think many cattle producers can justify that expense, although producers who grow hay for the horse hay market probably can justify the cost.”