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1 January 2009 Cattle Grazing as a Biological Control for Broom Snakeweed: Vegetation Response
Michael H. Ralphs, Jeffery E. Banks
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Broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae [Pursh] Britton & Rusby) increases and dominates rangelands following disturbances, such as overgrazing, fire, and drought. However, if cattle can be forced to graze broom snakeweed, they may be used as a biological tool to control it. Cattle grazed broom snakeweed in May and August 2004–2007. Narrow grazing lanes were fenced to restrict availability of herbaceous forage to force cattle to graze broom snakeweed. They used 50–85% of broom snakeweed biomass. Mature broom snakeweed plant density declined because of prolonged drought, but the decline was greater in grazed lanes. At the end of the study, density of mature plants in grazed lanes was 0.31 plants · m−2, compared with 0.79 plants · m−2 in ungrazed pastures. Spring precipitation in 2005 was 65% above average, and a new crop of seedlings established following the spring grazing trial. Seedling establishment was greater in the spring-grazed lanes in which the soil had been recently disturbed, compared with the ungrazed transects and summer-grazed lanes. The cattle were not able to use the large volume of new broom snakeweed plants in the spring-grazed pasture. They did reduce the number of seedlings and juvenile plants in the summer-grazed pasture. Intense grazing pressure and heavy use did not adversely affect crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertn.) cover, and it was actually higher in the summer grazed lanes than the ungrazed control transects. In moderate stands of broom snakeweed, cattle can be forced to graze broom snakeweed and reduce its density without adversely affecting the associated crested wheatgrass stand.

Michael H. Ralphs and Jeffery E. Banks "Cattle Grazing as a Biological Control for Broom Snakeweed: Vegetation Response," Rangeland Ecology and Management 62(1), 38-43, (1 January 2009).
Received: 17 March 2008; Accepted: 1 October 2008; Published: 1 January 2009

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