Last Thursday the San Benito County Weed Management Area had its 16th Annual Continuing Education Seminar for Ranchers. We had a great turnout and lots of interesting presentations. Click here to see PowerPoint presentations and handouts from the day, including handouts on new antibiotic laws for livestock and new weeds that have begun invading San Benito County such as Saharan mustard, sliverleaf nightshade.
Maintaining and Improving Rural Roads
When: December 6, 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Where: J. Lohr Wine Center, 6169 Airport Road, Paso Robles
Registration is Free, sign up today by clicking here
Provide landowners and land managers with information on:
- Identifying road-related problems and their causes
- Road best management practices
- Preventing road failures or impaired functioning
- Reducing future maintenance costs
- Minimizing environmental impacts of roads
- Fundamentals of rural, low volume roads
- Environmental conditions affecting roads
- Road assessment methods
- Road management and maintenance
- Permitting Requirements
- Sources of Technical and Financial Assistance
- Storm-proofing roads
Northern California Society of American Foresters, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation Districts, UC Cooperative Extension.
Support for this program has been provided in part by USDA-Forest Service, State and Private Forestry and the California State Department of Conservation.
Questions? Contact Dr. Richard Harris at (707) 685-5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locally contact Royce Larsen at (805) 434-4106 or email@example.com or Erin White, (805) 434-0396 ext 3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Register early! Enrollment limited to 40 people. Light refreshments will be served.
The San Benito County Weed Management Area is holding its 16th Annual Continuing Education Seminar for Ranchers on Thursday, December 7 from 7:30 am to 11:35 am at the Hollister Veterans Memorial building. The event is free! Come learn about managing rangeland weeds and bring weeds from your ranch to have them identified by a botanist! The Department of Pesticide Regulation has approved 2.5 hours of pesticide continuing education credit (including 1 hour of Laws and Regulations).
Thanks so much to Bolado Park Event Center for sponsoring the event!
For meeting agenda click here. If you have additional questions, contact Devii Rao at email@example.com or 831-389-4397 x14.
Foxtail (Hordeum murinum) is a pest plant that can dominate pastures on the Central Coast. It's not particularly good forage for livestock and the seed heads often get stuck in eyes, ears, and noses of livestock and pets. This annual grass is difficult to control, but that didn't stop Michael Cent, local landowner and pharmacist, from trying. Mr. Cent lives in San Juan Bautista (San Benito County) and has a 2.3 acre pasture that was infested with foxtail when he first bought the property. This article is a case study exploring Mr. Cent's efforts to reduce foxtail and encourage more desirable plants to grow.
The pasture was a horse pasture for many years, but the most recent previous owners used it as a llama pasture. The water table is high in the pasture as San Juan Creek is located just on other side of fence. The three primary problem plants in the pasture are cheeseweed (Malva parviflora), bristly ox-tongue (Helminthotheca echioides), and foxtail (Hordeum murinum). Desirable species in the pasture include perennial rye and Harding grass. The Cents do not have animals in the pasture year-round, but use targeted goat grazing during the growing season to help achieve their vegetation management goals.
With Mr. Cent's background as a scientist, he turned his foxtail problem into a science project. He thought the best approach to control foxtail would be to seed the pasture with plants that would outcompete it. First he tested the pasture's soil for pH and nutrients. Then he came up with a list of 19 plants to consider for seeding:
- Birdsfoot trefoil
- Blando brome
- Cicer milkvetch
- Crimson clover
- Drover tall fescue
- Gala grazing brome
- Iron clay cowpeas
- Kentucky 32 (tall fescue)
- Kingston perennial rye (a cultivar of perennial ryegrass, Festuca perenne)
- Lana vetch
- Pearl millet
- Red clover
- Six point chicory
- White clover
- Zoro fescue
Mr. Cent answered the following questions for each species:
- Is it drought tolerant?
- How quickly does it grow?
- Is it annual or perennial?
- Is it affected by frost?
- What soil pH range is required?
- Does it cause bloat in livestock?
- Does it require substantial amounts of Phosphorus or Potassium?
- What are the associated companion plants?
- How much does the seed cost?
- Is the seed local available?
For each species, most of these questions were answered using its Plant Profile in the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Plants Database (https://plants.usda.gov/java/). Within the Plant Profile, for most plants, you can also find a Fact Sheet and/or Plant Guide which contain valuable ecological information.
Based on the answers to these questions, Mr. Cent narrowed the list down to 12 species:
- Birdsfoot trefoil
- Crimson clover
- Gala grazing brome
- Harding grass
- Iron clay cowpeas
- Kenland clover
- Kingston perennial rye
- Lacey phacelia
- Lana vetch
- Six point chicory
To keep shipping costs down he purchased what seed he could from L.A. Hearne in Prunedale. The remainder was purchased online. Mr. Cent was particularly interested in six point chicory, gala grazing brome and Kingston perennial rye, so before seeding on a larger scale, he seeded those species into small test plots and found that they persisted through heat of summer, even without watering.
If you don't own a tractor, it's handy to have a neighbor who does. Luckily Mr. Cent had a neighbor who let him use his tractor. To prepare the pasture for seeding, Mr. Cent would have ideally used a disc, but he used what he had access to, which was a claw. He used the claw across the entire pasture to break up the soil. Then he hand seeded the grass and broadleaf seeds into the pasture. So far, he has seeded during two years: fall of 2015 and fall of 2016. Species seeded in the second year were those that were successful in the first year. There is no irrigation in the pasture.
Targeted Goat Grazing
Mr. Cent's Observations on Seeding Results
Crimson clover germinated and grew quickly early in the season. However, this species did not grow as well as anticipated in 2017 so will not be seeded again.
Gala grazing brome
Gala grazing brome did not do well in the pasture. This species looks similar to Bromus carinatus, a native perennial grass.
Iron clay cowpeas
Iron clay cowpeas are expected to compete with foxtail in the early season. This species was seeded in pasture, but was not successful. Cowpeas are frost sensitive and either seedlings died or it never germinated at all. Buckwheat seed was mixed with cowpea seed.
Kenland clover was slow to establish but is showing exceptional drought tolerance. It started growing very well in early June. However, overall it is not as successful as he had hoped.
Kingston perennial rye
Flowers of this species were palatable to the goats and they seemed to prefer it. It also provided a food source for bees and other pollinators. Phacelia was seeded in both years, but only came up in first year. Rainfall was average in the first year compared to well above average in the second year. Mr. Cent hypothesized that it did not grow well in the second year because rainfall was too high.
Lana vetch did not do well the first year so was not seeded again.
Plantain has been slow to establish but is increasing in cover over time and is showing good drought tolerance. Plantain was added to the mix because it is a companion to six point chicory and is highly palatable to livestock.
Six point chicory
Mr. Cent was also interested in finding companion plants to seed together. Based on his research, he found that plantain seed was often mixed with chicory seed, so he included plantain seed in the mix with chicory. During the first year plantain was not as successful as chicory. This year it's coming up better.
The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station in San Juan Valley indicates that the 19-year rainfall average for that area is 13 inches (http://www.cimis.water.ca.gov/Stations.aspx). Some data are missing for this weather station from the 2017 water year, so to give a sense of the difference in rainfall over the last 2 years, Hollister rainfall is given below. Hollister is about eight miles east of San Juan Bautista.
The Western Regional Climate Center has weather stations throughout the west. The weather stations are called RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Stations). Data from the Hollister RAWS station indicates that the 14-year average annual precipitation is 10.3 inches (https://raws.dri.edu/cgi-bin/rawMAIN.pl?caCHLR). Water year 2016 (October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016) was 11.7 inches, slightly above average. Water year 2017 (October 1, 2016-September 30, 2017 was 16.5 inches, substantially above average.
Because rainfall was so different in these two years when Mr. Cent seeded his pasture, it's difficult to know which species will survive in the long-run, but he will likely keep experimenting! He understands that rehabilitating the pasture and controlling foxtail is not a one or two year project, but a much longer project, maybe five years or more. But, good research beforehand should bring quicker success. And it has! While there is still foxtail in the pasture, it's is substantially less than it was prior to seeding and goat grazing.
Temperatures are starting to cool down a bit, a nice reprieve from the consistently hot summer we've been having. Maybe we'll get some rain in the next three or four weeks and get some good germination. Hopefully, we won't get too much yellow starthistle this coming year, but we'll see. One of the things that ranchers most often ask me about is how to control yellow starthistle. So start thinking about your management options now! Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States (DiTomaso, Kyser, et al. 2013) is an excellent book with information on how to control yellow starthistle and many other invasive species that occur in California. If you go to Google and type in UC Weed Report plus the name of the weed you are interested in you should get the section from this book on that particular weed, assuming the weed is included in the book. The yellow starthistle section is available at http://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_C/Centaurea_solstitialis.pdf. This article summarizes the yellow section chapter from the DiTomaso, Kyser, et al. book.
Three of the main yellow starthistle control strategies are herbicide, grazing, and mowing.
Herbicides: Several herbicides are effective on yellow starthistle, but two of the best options are Aminopyralid (Milestone) and Clopyralid (Transline). The best time to spray Aminopyralid is from the seedling stage to the rosette stage. The best time to spray Clopyralid is when the plant is in the late rosette stage. Grasses are not harmed by either herbicide.
Grazing: Cattle, sheep, and goats can all be used to graze yellow starthistle. The best time to graze is from the bolting stage to right before the spiny heads emerge. Bolting is the stage after the stem comes up out of the rosette, but before the flower head begins to emerge. Protein content during this stage is relatively high: 8% to 14%. Once the spines come out yellow starthistle becomes less attractive to cattle and sheep and they start avoiding it. Goats, on the other hand, are not dissuaded by the spines so they are often used in yellow starthistle targeted grazing programs. Short-duration, high-intensity grazing is the most effective grazing strategy to control yellow starthistle.
Mowing: Mowing can be an effective control option if you have an area that's flat enough for a mower to be safe and not tip over and doesn't have too many big rocks to get in the way of the mower. It will take several years of mowing to control yellow starthistle. Control will be even better if mowing is used in conjunction with other control methods. The best time to mow is when 2%-5% of all the yellow starthistle plants are flowering. Timing of mowing is critical. If you mow too early, yellow starthistle can grow back and produce even more seed than if you had not mowed. Mowing too early will also eliminate grasses and other existing plants that were competing with yellow starthistle. Yellow starthistle doesn't do as well if there's a thick mat of other vegetation to compete with. So, removing these plants releases yellow starthistle from competition, allowing it to grow better. If you mow too late, you'll spread the seed. Researchers found that they got the best results when they mowed twice: once during the early flowering stage and then a second time 4-6 weeks later after the plants had regrown and had produced flower buds.
Effectiveness of mowing also depends on how your yellow starthistle plants are growing. If you have plants that are tall and the branches are high up on the plants, you may only have to mow once during the early flowering stage. But, if you have plants that are spread out at the base and the branches are lower on the plant, you may not be able to control it very well because the mower can't get low enough to cut the branches.
Have you been successful controlling yellow starthistle on your ranch? If so, make a comment on this blog and let us know how you did it!
DiTomaso, J.M., G.B. Kyser et al. 2013. Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United
States. Weed Research and Information Center, University of California. 544 pp.
DiTomaso, J.M, G. B. Kyser, and M. J. Pitcairn. 2006. Yellow starthistle management guide. Cal-IPC
Publication 2006-03. California Invasive Plant Council: Berkeley, CA. 78 pp. Available: www.cal-ipc.org.