Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.

Common Name: Barnyardgrass

Synonyms and Other Names:

Milium crus-galli, Panicum crus-galli, Panicum hispidulum, Pennisetum crusgalli, cockspur, Japanese millet, watergrass, barnyardgrass, large barnyard grass, wild millet

Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1989. Midwest wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. Midwest National Technical Center, Lincoln, NE.Copyright Info

Identification: Echinochloa crus-galli is a tall, tufted annual with a coarse stalk. Stems often grow along the ground before turning upward (Learning Center 2012). The thick culms (hollow and jointed stems) branch from the base and are 0.8-1.5 m tall. The elongated leaves are flat, glabrous (without hair), scabrous (rough), slightly thickened at margin, and are 30-50 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. Leaves have a distinct light-colored mid-vein (Learning Center 2012). It does not have ligules (thin outgrowths between the leaf and leafstalk). Blade sheaths are smooth and those closest to the ground often appear reddish.

The panicle (loose and non-symmetrical cluster of flowers) is green or purple, densely branched, protruding, slightly drooping and can range from 8-30 cm in length (Learning Center 2012). The erect branches are sessile (attached to the main stem) and 5 cm long. Ovoid spikelets (individual flower with a cluster) are pale green to dull purple, densely arranged on branches, and are short-bristly along veins. Fertile lemma (specialized bracts enclosing a floret) are pale yellow, ovate to elliptic, acute, lustrous, smooth and 3-3.5 mm long. The seeds are very rounded with hairy lemmas (Learning Center 2012).

This species has a fibrous root system (Learning Center 2012).

Size: Up to 2m

Native Range: Eurasia

Map Key
This map only depicts Great Lakes introductions.

Great Lakes Nonindigenous Occurrences: widespread in the Great Lakes by 1843


Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Echinochloa crus-galli are found here.

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
ID189118911Little Calumet-Galien
IN200720084Little Calumet-Galien; St. Joseph; St. Joseph; Upper Maumee
MI1838201441Au Gres-Rifle; Bad-Montreal; Betsie-Platte; Birch-Willow; Black; Boardman-Charlevoix; Cheboygan; Clinton; Detroit; Flint; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower Grand; Manistee; Manistique; Menominee; Muskegon; Northeastern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Huron; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pine; Raisin; Saginaw; Shiawassee; Southcentral Lake Superior; Southeastern Lake Michigan; Southwestern Lake Huron-Lake Huron; St. Clair; St. Clair-Detroit; St. Joseph; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Upper Grand; Western Lake Erie
MN200820082Northwestern Lake Superior; St. Louis
NY1843200818Black; Cattaraugus; Eastern Lake Erie; Great Lakes Region; Indian; Lake Champlain; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Northeastern Lake Ontario; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Oswego; Oswego; Saranac River; Seneca; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence; Upper Genesee
PA200820081Lake Erie
WI2008201812Bad-Montreal; Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Milwaukee; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Oconto; Peshtigo; Pike-Root; Southwestern Lake Michigan; Upper Fox; Wolf

Table last updated 1/21/2022

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Echinochloa crus-galli thrives in wet soils and can continue to grow when partially submerged. It is found in many moist ecosystems such as cultivated areas, swamps, marshes, along shorelines, ditches and disturbed areas (Learning Center 2012, OLA and MAFF 2002). It prefers climates with warm summer days and requires 160-200 days free from frost for survival (OLA and MAFF 2002). It is normally found only at low and medium altitudes between 50oN and 40oS latitude (Maun and Barrett 1986). Echinochloa crus-galli can tolerate various soil types, but it grows best in rich, moist soils with high nitrogen content (OLA and MAFF 2002). In drier soils, it does not grow as tall and has reduced numbers of panicles, tillers, and seeds. Increases in salinity lead to decreases in germination and seedling size. For instance, Rahman and Ungar (1990) found that no E. crus-galli seeds germinated in test environments with 2% NaCl.

Echinochloa crus-galli is capable of self-pollination (Honek and Martinková 1996). Seed production for E. crus-galli highly variable and can produce anywhere from 7,000 to 40,000 seeds each year (Norris 1992). Newly released seeds are dormant and require exposure to low winter temperatures and then alternating spring temperatures and/or spring flooding (Maun and Barrett 1986). Seeds buried over 8 cm remain viable for at least 3 years and some seeds are still viable after 13 years (Maun and Barrett 1986). Germination can be induced if the caryopsis (seed coat) is broken. This “wounding effect” exposes the embryo inside to the carbon dioxide and water necessary for radical elongation (Leather et al. 1992). Germination begins after the soil warms (late spring) and can occur in anaerobic environments (Kennedy et al. 1983, OLA and MAFF 2002). Echinochloa crus-galli continues to grow throughout the summer, produces seeds in September/October, and then dies shortly afterwards (Maun and Barrett 1986).

Seeds can be dispersed via waterways, insects, birds, the feet of larger animals, and anthropogenic causes (machinery, contaminated seed, etc.) (OLA and MAFF 2002). Increased time within the gut and digestive track of birds reduces the probability of viability (Wongsriphuek et al. 2008). Echinochloa crus-galli populations can also expand when lower nodes of stems develop roots; however, these new segments often do not survive through the winter (OLA and MAFF 2002).

Means of Introduction: Deliberate release (USEPA 2008)

Status: Established

Great Lakes Impacts:  

Echinochloa crus-galli has a moderate environmental impact in the Great Lakes.
Echinochloa spp. are early successional hydrophytes that quickly colonize disturbed wetlands. However, members of this genus do not persist over time and are replaced by perennials (WIDNR 2012). In 2008, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) reported that this species was too common to map (Falck et al. 2009).

This grass has been reported to accumulate levels of nitrate high enough to be toxic to farm animals (Holm et al. 1977).

Root exudates from E. crus-galli were found to contain 15 phytotoxic compounds that are thought to be allelochemicals against the growth of other plant species (Xuan et al. 2006). Allelochemicals produced by young shoots inhibit the growth of rice and other plants growing in close proximity (Yamamoto et al. 1999 in Xuan et al. 2006). Bhowmik and Reddy (1988) found that the presence of barnyard grass in tomato fields reduced the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the leaves of tomato plants.

Echinochloa crus-galli has been identified as capable of hosting and transmitting the southern rice black-streaked dwarf virus in south China (Li et al. 2012b).

Echinochloa crus-galli may pose a competitive threat to native species of Echinochloa such as E. muricata and E. walteri, which is endangered in Pennsylvania (PLANTS Team 2012).  Echinochloa crus-galli also poses a genetic threat to E. muricata, because these two species are able to produce hybrids when growing in the same community (OLA and MAFF 2002).

Echinochloa crus-galli has a high socio-economic impact in the Great Lakes.
Echinochloa crus-galli has been observed to impact at least 36 different crops (e.g., rice, lettuce, cotton, tomato) in at least 61 different countries (Bhowmilk and Reddy 1988, Holm et al. 1991 in Xuan et al. 2006, Keely and Thullen 1991, Xuan et al. 2006). In 1985, Hamill and Thomas found barnyard grass in 58% of the cornfields surveyed in Ontario. Estimated corn yield loses of 38% were reported for cornfields with an average barnyard grass density of 9 plants/m2 (Bosnic and Swanton 1997).

The longer E. crus-galli is allowed to grow with a desired crop species, the greater the reduction in yield (Keely and Thullen 1991). Experiments conducted in Sunderland, Massachusetts showed that barnyard grass growing with tomato crops reduced the marketable fruit weight from 26-84% depending on density (Bhowmilk and Reddy 1988).

Barnyard grass has been found in 81% of tested rice seed lots and reduced rice yields by up to 40% in one agricultural study (Kennedy et al. 1983). In China, densities of 25 plants/m2 reduced rice yield by 50% (Chin 2001).

Echinochloa crus-galli has a moderate beneficial effect in the Great Lakes.

Seeds of barnyard grass can be eaten by songbirds and waterfowl; plants offer cover for waterfowl.

Echinochloa crus-galli was originally cultivated for forage and sold under the name “wonder grass” (OLA and MAFF 2002). It is typically fed to livestock while still green and is appropriate for ensilage, but not for hay (Duke 1996).

Echinochloa crus-galli is used in folk remedies for carbuncles, hemorrhage, sores, spleen disorders, cancer, and wounds (Duke 1996).

Echinochloa crus-galli
is capable of leaching excess salts from soils and has been used for soil reclamation in Egypt (Abogadallah and Quick 2009, Aslam et al. 1987). It is also able to remove cadmium, copper, and lead from the soil; this ability is enhanced when citric acid is added to the soil (Kim and Lee 2010). Barnyard grass is also capable of accumulating zinc from wastewater (Liu et al. 2007). Germination of E. crus-galli was unaffected when exposed to the waste from a coke plant, a pulp mill, and a waste water treatment facility. Barnyard grass seedling growth increased after exposed to the some of the pollutants from a wastewater treatment plant (Adamus et al. 2001). The ability to withstand unknown pollutants, even thrive under some conditions, indicated the potential to use E. crus-galli in constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment.

Echinochloa crus-galli contains diethyl phthalate and phthalic acid, derivatives of which are used commercially in plasticizers in high-molecular-weight polymers. Unfortunately, these derivatives are toxic to humans, animals, fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae, and other microorganisms (Xuan et al. 2006).

Echinochloa crus-galli contains a lipid transfer protein that inhibits the action of Phytophthora infestans, a pathogenic fungus that causes late blight of tomatoes and potatoes. These results suggest the possibility of creating crop plants tolerant to late blight by altering their existing genetic code to include this lipid transfer protein (Rogozhin et al. 2009). Barnyard grass also has two novel defensins that inhibit several phytopathogenic fungi (Odintsova et al. 2008).


Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)
In Minnesota, E. crus-galli is considered to pose a “minimal” threat to ecosystems: poses insignificant competition with native species, may naturalize, alters ecosystems insignificantly, and has little possibility of spread within or to other sites (Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council 2009).

In 2003, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) reported that E. crus-galli has widespread established populations, limited effective control methods, and causes low to moderate ecological impacts; as a result, GLIFWC does not require its regulation (Falck and Garske 2003).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

The fungal pathogen Exserohilum monoceras has shown some success in controlling barnyard grass (Catindig et al. 2009).

Echinochloa crus-galli seeds need to be near the surface to germinate; less than 1 cm of soil will inhibit germination (Adamus et al. 2001). Shallow tillage repeated during the spring can reduce emergence of barnyard grass (OLA and MAFF 2002). Mowing is unlikely to be effective because it will stimulate new growth from lateral buds (OLA and MAFF 2002).

Placing mulch over areas where E. crus-galli is expected to emerge will keep the soil cool and help suppress germination (Cornell University 2012). Further control methods may be needed.

There is a high amount of genetic variation among E. crus-galli communities. Managers who choose a chemical control method may need to adjust the compound/application rate to fit the needs of the site (Altop and Mennan 2011). Mature plants show little sensitivity to herbicides applications. Herbicides applied pre-emergence or shortly after emergence typically exhibit the most effective control (Ahmadi et al. 1980, Maun and Barrett 1986, OLA and MAFF 2002).

Barnyard grass is susceptible to sulfometuron methyl (Oust XP®, Spyder®), clethodium (Select MAX®, Intensity®), glyphosate (Accord®, Foresters’ Glypro®, Roundup®, Cornerstone®, Razor®), imazapyr (Aresenal AC®, Habitat®, Chopper®), linuron (Linex 4L®, Loroz DF®), norflurazon (Predict®), sethoxydim (Sethoxydim E-Pro®, Poast Plus®). It is also susceptible to simazine (Simazine 4L®, Simazine 90 DF®), fluazifop (Fusilade DX®), hexainon (Velpar®), pendimethalin (Pendulum 3.3 EC®); however it should be noted that these herbicides cannot be used in Forest Sustainability Certified Areas (Division of Forestry 2011, Keely and Thullen 1991).

Ahmadi et al. (1980) found that when applied to barnyard grass 5 cm in height, glyphosate, terbuthryn, paraquat, atrazine and buthidazole all resulted in 100% control. The efficacy of herbicides containing glyphosate was increased when applied when soil was moist, because it allowed for better translocation through the entire plant (Ahmadi et al. 1980). Glyphosate plus 2,4-D will also control E. crus-galli; it is most effective when applied 6 days after the last irrigation or rainfall (Wicks and Hanson 1995).

Haloxyfop, fluazifop, and sethoxydim offer effective control of (Balyan and Malik 1989). Seedling growth of E. crus-galli can be effectively reduced by applying fluazifop and haloxyfop (separately) to the soil (Kells et al. 1986).

Ammonium salt of imazapic (Plateau®) is effective at controlling barnyard grass (BASF Corporation 2011).

Diclofop was effective at controlling barnyard grass, especially when applied postemergence to plants with less than 4 leaves (West et al. 1980).

2,4-D sodium (Hormicide®) applied pre-emergence will help prevent barnyard from growing. Young plants can be controlled with paraquat, where as more mature plants can be controlled with 2.2-DPA. In Australia E. crus-galli plants treated with F-34 (3,4 - dichloropropionanilide) 2-3 weeks post-emergence were successfully controlled (FAO 2012).

Bispyribac is a postemergent herbicide that is registered for grasses in rice fields and offers effective control of E. crus-galli. Its efficacy may be increased when used in combination with a spray adjuvant and/or urea ammonium nitrate (Koger et al. 2007).

Postemergent treatment with propanil and pendimenthalin offers good control of barnyard grass (Setre Chemical Company 1986). Propanil is most effective against barnyard grass applied before the plants have three leaves (Snipes and Street 1987). However, barnyard grass can become resistant to propanil and resistant communities have been reported in Arkansas (Gealy et al. 2003).

DPX-79406 (1:1 premix of nicosulfuron and rimsulfuron) and rimsulfuron are registered for use in Ontario and offer good control of barnyard grass growing intermingled with corn (Bosnic and Swanton 1997). When applied post-emergence, Rimsulfuron plus thifensulforn resulted in 97% control (Krausz et al. 2000).

Cyhalofop-butyl offers good control of E. crus-galli when applied early postemergence. When applied to barnyard grass growing within rice, this compound had only slight effects on rice quantity and quality (Ntanos et al. 2000). The ethyl ester of fenoxaprop will control E. crus-galli and most varieties of rice are tolerant (Snipes and Street 1987).

For more specific information on chemical control methods, please visit:
Cornell University’s Pesticide Management Education Program:
Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook:
The Rice Knowledge Bank:

Ongoing research indicates that E. crus-galli may be susceptible to various natural, biodegradable herbicides derived from microorganisms and from other plant species (Khanh et al. 2006, Li et al. 2012a, Malik 1997, Kato-Nogucki et al. 2012).

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

Remarks: In North America there many variations of Echinochloa spp. that are similar in appearance. Taxonomic disagreement and misidentification of these species can occur (Maun and Barrett 1986).

There are some naming inconsistencies currently in use. Echinochloa muricata is also referred to as barnyard grass (Wetland and Coastal Resources 2005).  Both E. esculenta and E. frumentacea share the common name of Japanese millet with E. crus-galli (ANS Task Force 2012, Reznicek et al. 2011).

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Author: Cao, L., L. Berent, and A. Fusaro

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 4/4/2019

Peer Review Date: 4/4/2019

Citation for this information:
Cao, L., L. Berent, and A. Fusaro, 2022, Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 4/4/2019, Peer Review Date: 4/4/2019, Access Date: 1/22/2022

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.