While the significant ecosystem damage caused by invasive weeds has been well documented, the economic consequences of specific invasive weed species are poorly understood. Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis L., hereafter YST) is the most widespread noncrop weed in California, resulting in serious damage to forage on natural range and improved pasture. A survey was administered to California cattle ranchers to investigate YST infestation rates, loss of forage quantity and value, and control or eradication efforts. The results were used to estimate countywide losses and costs for 3 focus counties, as well as statewide losses/costs, due to YST in California. Total losses of livestock forage value due to YST on private land for the state of California are estimated at $7.65 million per year, with ranchers' out-of-pocket expenditures on YST control amounting to $9.45 million per year. Together, these amount to the equivalent of 6%–7% of the total annual harvested pasture value for the state. Therefore, while the impacts are relatively small within the statewide total agricultural production system, losses and costs due to YST infestation do constrain California's livestock grazing sector.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4