Foxtail Barley Management

Foxtail barley is a native bunchgrass found throughout Canada, primarily in moist or saline depressions but can also occur in cultivated fields, roadsides, waste lands, and lawn. It is a perennial plant, greenish purple in colour with round, hollow stems, and swollen nodes. The unique seed head has very long awns that look like a “foxtail,” which makes this plant very easy to identify. At maturity, the awns fade to a straw colour or almost white and the plant reproduces primarily by seed dispersal.  

Over the past few years, foxtail has been particularly abundant due to the warm, dry weather. There is no selective herbicide that works to control foxtail which means it would have to be treated with a non-selective bare ground product. Spot treatment with glyphosate (Round Up) is usually recommended, with the warning that it will kill most other grasses and broadleaf plants if not applied properly and decreasing the species which could out compete the foxtail.  

Mowing throughout the growing season to prevent foxtail from going to seed is the best action at this time. 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. As well, Foxtail barley is not a listed species on the Alberta Weed Control Act and therefore control is not required.  

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