Invasive Grass Control
Much of the Texas landscape as we know it today would be almost unrecognizable to those that lived here only a few generations before us. Early settlers began improving the land they chose to call home almost immediately. Early settlers began improving the land they chose to call home almost immediately out of substance and demand to feed their livestock. Planting grass seed, much of which being from non-native species, made sense at the time and was very effective. By today’s standards, however, we may wish they had better choices or options available at the time.
Three common examples of introduced nonnative grasses that give land managers trouble these days are King Ranch (KR) bluestem, Kleberg bluestem, and bermudagrass. While these grasses have obvious benefits when looked at from a livestock grazing perspective, they do have a long list of downsides when looked at from a wildlife management point of view. These species are generally hardy, withstand high grazing pressure, are drought and cold tolerant, and adapt well to a variety of soil types, much of which cannot be said for many species of native grasses.
Looking at these species as a land manager with a concern for wildlife, these strengths are formidable opponents. Native wildlife does best with a large amount of diversity on the landscape. A wide variety of native grasses and forbs creates a balance that benefits everything from quail to white-tailed deer. Once these stands of non-natives establish and grow tall, they shade out the shorter native species of grasses and forbs, and without human intervention its uncommon for the native species to return in past numbers.
Traditional control methods such as burning, mowing, disking and plowing not only have little initial success, they tend to invigorate these species and bring them back stronger and more aggressive than they were initially. Bermudagrass is invasive in a vegetative manner, via stolons and rhizomes, often referred to as “runners”. These are the shoots of grass that can be seen extending horizontally away from the existing plant, both above and below ground. As a general rule completely removing these species from a landscape is only feasible shortly after the initial invasion occurs. Attempting to tackle and eradicate large, well established stands of these grasses can be a waste of time and money unless you are fully committed to a long-term regimen with realistic expectations. Regaining control of a pasture filled with bermudagrass can take several years of constant work to see real progress, and still might not result in complete success. If you are not able to devote the time and money long term it is often best to practice passive management, as many times these species will reduce in number over time when left undisturbed, especially in sandy soils.
As an example, the most successful combination of management practices resulting in the least amount of Bermudagrass has been determined to be: mowing followed by applying glyphosate (Roundup) at 96oz per acre, then disc the pasture and broadcast a high diversity seed mixture suitable for your soil type and region. Spot control treatment of regrowth in the future should be done as instructed above. If you desire a pasture with the highest possible species diversity you should substitute the use of a grain drill to apply your seed mix and then use grazing as a the follow up control method. Converting non-native pastures back to native grasses takes time, considerable effort and specific steps to be most successful. The need for native grasses back into the landscape begins with a wide-angle ecosystem approach and ends with benefits to specific bird populations, for example. Converting to natives may not be for everyone but it certainly enhances your local wildlife usage and makes for a much more diverse and beautiful landscape.
Posted in: Land Management
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