Goosegrass (Eleusine indica) is a troublesome grass found in many locations where turfgrass is managed. Historically, one might think of Goosegrass as being a golf course or athletic field issue. However, this weed is spreading into other turf areas such as lawns and parks. Often, turf managers think they have Goosegrass under control, but by late July or August Goosegrass is everywhere. A greater presence of Goosegrass has been observed in cool-season turf throughout the Midwest and Northeast over the last several years. It is particularly a problem on driving range tees. Although it is more common to see Goosegrass in warmer climates, it has been documented up the East coast to Massachusetts.
Goosegrass is a native plant of temperate to tropical climates. It competes successfully with warm-and-cool season turfgrass during summer months in situations where the canopy has been thinned due to various turfgrass pests, areas of poor fertility, or intense traffic. This weed demonstrates a high degree of tolerance to drought conditions. Goosegrass is well equipped to establish itself in dense turf stands and survives mowing heights from putting greens to lawns. Goosegrass is known to thrive in compacted soils.
Goosegrass is a prostrate-growing summer annual with a flat stem. Mature plants grow in clumps with the base of the stems being distinctively white to silver in color hence one of its most common synonyms silver crabgrass. The ligule is toothed, membranous, and divided at the center resembling the letter 'M'. The seed heads contain 2 to 7 spikes that form at the tip of the seed stalk resembling a zipper. Its main method of reproduction is by seed. Goosegrass typically germinates later in spring compared to other annual grasses like crabgrass. Goosegrass germinates when soil temperatures reach 63 to 65°F, which is usually at least 2 to 4 weeks later than crabgrass. Research has found that fluctuating daytime temperatures of 85° to 95° F with nighttime temperatures in the upper 60s to mid-70s stimulates Goosegrass germination.
Goosegrass is highly competitive during warmer parts of the year and can thrive if conditions are not favorable for desired turf. In salt-tolerant grasses, like Seashore Paspalum, pouring rock salt on the crown of the plant can desiccate individual Goosegrass plants. Severe infestations may indicate the need for improved cultural practices, such as aerification to alleviate compaction. Sound agronomic practices that improve the growing conditions of turf may also reduce Goosegrass competition.
Preemergence herbicides used for crabgrass control can be an effective tool for Goosegrass control. Preemergence herbicide applications targeting Goosegrass should be delayed approximately 3 to 4 weeks after a preemergence crabgrass application. Goosegrass has developed resistance to metribuzin and herbicides in the dinitroaniline family, including trifluralin, oryzalin and pendimethalin. Due to concerns with resistance, it is important to use sound rotational practices when choosing an herbicide. Even though there are limited options for selective Goosegrass control with herbicides, there are still some that can provide effective control. Dismiss® and Dismiss® South both will control goosegrass when applied to newly emerged weeds in the 1-4 leaf growth stage. Research has demonstrated that a combination of 8 fl oz/A Dismiss + 17 fl oz/A Revolver® provides effective postemergence control of larger Goosegrass plants. By combining sound management practices with herbicides strategies containing Dismiss or Dismiss South will result in effective goosegrass control and a healthier turf stand.