Yucca plants, also called soapweed, have nearly overrun many rangelands in the Great Plains. However, there are ways to reclaim those grazing lands from yucca.
Across much of western and central Nebraska, yucca has nearly taken over some pastures. While they may produce attractive flowers, dense stands of yucca can devastate grass production.
Yucca plants develop rapidly once established on drier rangeland sites. They produce a deep taproot that competes aggressively for limited water in these soils. Since cattle rarely eat yucca during summer, grass production decreases while yucca thrives.
Herbicides such as Remedy, Tordon, Velpar, or Cimarron Plus can control yucca, but only when each individual plant is directly sprayed. General spraying to control yucca on rangeland is cost-prohibitive, although small patches can and should be controlled before they expand.
When yucca covers too much land to spray, the only cost-effective way to reduce its effect is to graze in the winter. During winter, yucca often is the only green plant growing in pastures.
Cows sometimes will get down on their knees, lay their head sideways on the ground and chew through the base of the plant to get to the moist, tender parts. After several consecutive winters of grazing, yucca stands can be reduced to allow grass to thrive again during summer.
Now that summer range is going dormant for the winter, grazing will do little harm to native grasses. Ample summer rain in many areas also produced more grass than usual, so grass is more plentiful than usual for winter grazing.
This may be a good year to reclaim some rangeland back from yucca. Winter grazing is your best tool.
Anderson is a Nebraska Extension forage specialist.