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Sandbur (Cenchrus) can be a very troublesome weed in warm-season turf species. It is easily identified by the seedhead, which is a spike of tiny burs that can hurt when touched. This weed thrives in sandy soils, but can be controlled with certain herbicides when in the seedling stage.

Cultural Control

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Maintaining a dense, vigorous turf is the first step in effective weed control. Cultural and management practices that enhance turfgrass growth generally reduce weed competition and encroachment. First, select adapted turfgrass cultivars for your area and then properly fertilize, mow, and water to encourage dense growth.

Chemical Control

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Herbicide and Formulation Amount of Formulation per 1,000 sq ft Amount of Formulation per Acre Pounds Active Ingredient per Acre
Preemergence Control
MSMA, MOA 17 (6 SL, 6.6 SL) (various brands) several concentrations 1.82 to 4.5
Precaution and Remarks: MSMA is only registered for golf course, sod farm, and highway right-of-way use. Bermudagrass, bluegrass and zoysiagrass are tolerant. Injury may result on bentgrass, fescue and also St. Augustinegrass grown for commercial sod production only. Do not use on carpetgrass or centipedegrass. MSMA restrictions: For existing golf courses, spot treat (100 square feet per spot) not to exceed 25% of total acreage. For new courses, make 1 broadcast application per year. For sod farms, make 1 to 2 broadcast applications per year and maintain 25 feet buffer around permanent water bodies.
For highway rights of way, make 2 broadcast applications and maintain 100 feet buffer around permanent water bodies.
MSMA, MOA 17 (6 SL, 6.6 SL) (various brands) + metribuzin, MOA 5 (75 DF) (Sencor) several concentrations
0.17 to 0.33 lb
1.5 to 2
0.125 to 0.25
Precaution and Remarks: See remarks for MSMA and metribuzin. The combination improves goosegrass control. Should be applied to bermudagrass only.
asulam, MOA 18 (3.34 SL) (Asulox) 1.8 fl oz 5 pt 2
Precaution and Remarks: Use only on St. Augustinegrass and Tifway 419 turf. On golf courses, use only on fairways and roughs.​

Species Data

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    • leaves folded in the bud
    • fringe of hairs 0.04 inches (1 mm) long, with 0.08 inch (2 mm) long hairs on each side
    • summer annual or perennial weed
    • absent
    • sharp-pointed; thin, flat, usually not hairy
      Figure 10
    • 0.08 - 0.24 inches (2 - 6 mm) wide
    • none, but stems decumbent
    • present; very short
    • divided by midrib, distinct
    • flattened; sheath is usually not hairy
      Figure 11
Sandbur seedhead

Figure 1. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 2. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 3. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 4. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 5. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 6. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 7. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 8. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur seedhead

Figure 9. Sandbur seedhead.

Sandbur  leaf blade width

Figure 10. Sandbur leaf blade width.

Sandbur sheath

Figure 11. Sandbur sheath.


Extension Specialist (Turfgrass/Forage Crop Weed Mgt)
Crop & Soil Sciences

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Publication date: Nov. 9, 2017

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by NC State University or N.C. A&T State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension county center.

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