Medusahead is among the most invasive grasses in the western United States. Selective control of this noxious winter annual grass is difficult in California grasslands, as many other desirable annual grasses and both native and nonnative broadleaf forbs are also important components of the rangeland system. Intensive grazing management using sheep is one control option. This study was designed to determine the optimal timing for sheep grazing on heavily infested medusahead sites, and to evaluate the changes in species composition with different grazing regimes. Midspring (April/May) grazing reduced medusahead cover by 86 to 100% relative to ungrazed plots, regardless of whether it was used in combination with early spring or fall grazing. Early spring (March) or fall (October to November) grazing, alone or in combination, was ineffective for control of medusahead. In addition, midspring grazing increased forb cover, native forb species richness, and overall plant diversity. At the midspring grazing timing, medusahead was in the “boot” stage, just prior to exposure of the inflorescences. The success of this timely grazing system required high animal densities for short periods. Although this approach may be effective in some areas, the timing window is fairly narrow and the animal stocking rates are high. Thus, sheep grazing is unlikely to be a practical solution for management of large medusahead infestations.
Nomenclature:Medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski ELYCA.