Weedcontroldemandslong-term.cfm Weed control demands long-term strategic effort
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Weed control demands long-term strategic effort

A gap exists between science-based methods and methods that landowners practice in controlling biological weed invasions. In California, the spread of the yellow starthistle is having an economic impact of more than $17 million annually. Although eliminating this weed benefits both ecosystems and the economic interests of landowners, practical constraints often keep landowners from using the most successful control methods.

In an exploratory study published in the current issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management, 202 landowners in the Sierra Nevada foothills rangeland were survey and interviewed to gain information about weed control methods. Ninety-three percent of these landowners reported having had yellow starthistle, a nonnative invasive plant, on their ranch; 86 percent reported trying to control these infestations. Forage reduction, loss of wildlife habitat, displacement of other plants, and depletion of soil moisture due to the invasive yellow starthistle reduce the productivity of these ranches.

Practical constraints that pose challenges to these ranchers in managing this weed include poor understanding of control methods and weed dynamics; localized limitations of terrain and climate; and lack of time and money to invest in weed control.

The six removal methods most commonly used for yellow starthistle by landowners in this survey were: manual removal, Roundup herbicide application, Transline herbicide application, mowing, grazing and burning. These ranchers rated manual removal and Transline herbicide as the most effective control methods.

The study's findings indicate that those ranchers who responded early to yellow starthistle invasion were more successful in controlling it. However, these ranchers rarely developed long-term strategic plans for weed management, which is more effective than short-term, reactive control. Many ranchers were inconsistent with their approaches as well, switching from one control method to another. The number of years over which methods are used is important to successful control because of large soil seed-banks produced by this species. Another factor confounding effective control was a lack of coordination among neighboring landowners, which often led to reinfestation.

Finally, this article offers five recommendations for ranchers, researchers and agricultural advisors to control yellow starthistle. These are 1) ranchers should respond rapidly to initial weed infestation; 2) researchers should access local knowledge within agricultural communities; 3) topographical, ecological and meteorological variations should be incorporated into control methods; 4) rancher education should be increased; and 5) cost-share programs to help ranchers with control attempts should be implemented.

Full text of the article "Practical Challenges in Private Stewardship of Rangeland Ecosystems: Yellow Starthistle Control in Sierra Nevadan Foothills," is available at www.allenpress.com/pdf/RAMA-62-1-i1551-5028-62-1-28.pdf.

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