Private landowners are often de facto stewards of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In California's Sierra Nevada foothills, ranchers frequently present the only defense against biological invasions in private rangelands. Although ranchers' land management goals (e.g., the desire to control invasive species) can be consistent with ecosystem protection, practical constraints often limit their success. Considerable research on the invasive weed, yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis L.), has produced numerous control strategies. Nevertheless, the range of this noxious weed continues to increase. We used surveys and interviews to document the weed control efforts of 202 ranchers and to identify practical limitations to their efficacy. Overall, 86% of ranchers who had experienced yellow starthistle infestation had attempted control, using one or more of 19 methods. Early response reduced negative effects from yellow starthistle. Control methods learned from agricultural advisors were reported more effective than those learned elsewhere. Limitations to yellow starthistle control in our study population resulted from incomplete information regarding control methods, complexity of weed control in heterogeneous landscapes, inconsistent application of methods, and lack of long-term planning for weed control. Such hindrances make it difficult for landowners to implement control methods promoted by researchers. This gap between science and practice contributes to the continued increase of yellow starthistle within the study region. To shrink this gap, researchers and agricultural advisors can incorporate environmental heterogeneity into applied agricultural research, use land stewards' knowledge and experience, and increase public education.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1