Weeds also pose problems for drought-stressed forage production. “When we get rain, weeds are the first thing to emerge. Weeds such as goat grass, thistles and bahiagrass take advantage of exposed spots and sunlight to start growing.”

Weeds come from numerous places, including the fields where they begin to emerge. “A lot of seeds lie dormant for years,” she said. With a little moisture and open space, they take advantage of reduced competition and grow. “It’s a perfect storm for weed production.”

The need for producers to buy hay from out of state also may have brought in new weed seed and possibly some species new to the area. “I’ve seen thistles that are native to New York State, not Texas.”

Controlling those weeds should be the first step in renovating pastures. “We have herbicides to control many weeds, even in bermudagrass stands.”

Bringing fertility back to correct levels is also important. “We need to manage fertility. Maintaining fertility in good years helps us survive the bad years,” she said.

Soil analysis is the first step. “Know what the soil needs, especially for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and pH. Sandy soils tend to be acidic. After a drought, collect soil samples and request from the soil analysis the ‘minimum requirement,’ and treat the area like newly established forage.”

Phosphorus is important for root development. Potassium is important for persistence. “East Texas soils tend to be deficient in potassium,” she said. “Nitrogen offers instant gratification. With moisture and nitrogen, grass starts growing.”

Many forage producers tend to make forage fertility decisions based on cost. “But they need a balanced nutrient program,” she said. If one element is out of kilter it can reduce productivity. “Less nitrogen lowers quantity and quality, for instance. So, if a producer needs to make cuts, he should cut across the board and maintain a balanced nutrition system.”

Bermudagrass needs “at least a 5.8 pH level. Below 5.8 the plant’s ability to take up nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium decreases.”

Corriher-Olson said renovation is defined as “making new again,” but renovating forage stands may include anything from completely reworking the stand to tweaking fertility, overseeding, reducing soil erosion, improving weed control, enhancing wildlife habitat or increasing grazing management.

Renovation may also include interseeding or overseeding with no-till techniques into hybrid grass varieties.