Multi-species grazing is easy to incorporate with other management tools, particularly biological control and herbicides. Studies at TEAM Leafy Spurge demonstration sites have shown that combinations of grazing+herbicides and grazing+biological control can provide economically significant control much quicker than any of the three tools used alone.
As mentioned earlier, there are no "silver bullets" or cure-alls for managing and controlling leafy spurge simply put, there just isnít any single tool that will work every time in every situation.
TEAM Leafy Spurge believes biologically based Integrated Pest Management provides the most effective, affordable and flexible approach for controlling leafy spurge. IPM works because it combines the best elements of different tools, and because it enables ranchers and land managers to tailor management programs to fit their specific needs and goals.
In most IPM scenarios, a tool like grazing, herbicides or mowing is used to reduce spurge densities and open up the canopy, giving more desirable plants a chance to re-establish. The stress and damage that occurs during this process weakens leafy spurge, thus making it more susceptible to damage by other tools.
In many cases, multi-species grazing can provide a solid foundation for other tools to build on. Thereís nothing new or revolutionary about the concept sheep and goats eat leafy spurge, and when properly managed and monitored, can provide an excellent complement to cattle grazing operations. Improved range health, increased forage production and enhanced profit potential are all realistic and achievable goals.
Following are brief summaries on combining multi-species grazing with other leafy spurge management tools.
In ideal situations, biological control can maintain leafy spurge densities below economically significant levels.
But flea beetles arenít going to work every time at every site, and integration with other management tools, or simply using other tools, may be required.
TEAM Leafy Spurge demonstrations and other research has shown that multispecies-grazing and biological control can be an extremely effective combination. Sheep grazing reduces spurge densities, giving flea beetles improved chances of establishing large populations capable of providing significant control.
Herbicides are the most commonly us edleafy spurge management tool, and are the preferred tool for containing/preventing the spread of infestations and for eradicating new invasive weeds.
Unfortunately, herbicides are generally expensive, and use on large infestations may not be economically feasible. In addition, herbicides are non-selective and may adversely impact non-target species, and use in some areas may be restricted by environmental regulations or inaccessibility to infestations.
Studies have shown that herbicides and multi-species grazing can be combined to provide excellent leafy spurge control. Timing is the most important factor. General recommendations call for grazing spurge infestations as normal (mid-May through mid-August, for example), then applying herbicides in the fall after some regrowth of the spurge has occurred.
It is important to note that grazing may be restricted following the application of certain herbicides; as always, read the herbicide label and follow recommended guidelines.
It should be stressed that herbicide use SHOULD NOT BE ABANDONED simply because other tools are being used. Herbicides should ALWAYS be considered as the first line of defense when small, scattered patches are found, and when attempting to contain the spread of larger infestations.
Prescribed burns can be used to reduce spurge densities and remove ground litter that can inhibit the establishment of desirable plants.
If sheep production is a primary goal, timing of burns needs to be considered burns should generally be performed in the fall or early spring so that leafy spurge top growth is available for sheep or goats.
Similarly, if multi-species grazing is being used in combination with biological control, burns should not be conducted from mid-May through mid-August to avoid interference with the adult phase of the flea beetle life cycle.
Regardless of the tool or tools being used to reduce leafy spurge infestations, reseeding can be used to speed range recovery. Desirable grasses can re-establish more quickly after reseeding, thus providing competition for less desirable species that may emerge as reductions in leafy spurge infestations occur.
Some homework is recommended when considering reseeding as a leafy spurge or noxious weed management tool. Seed mixes for range recovery can be expensive and will vary depending on geography, climate, long-term management goals and other factors, so careful planning will pay off in the long run.
Consultation with local experts, such as Cooperative Extension Service range specialists, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel and/or other range specialists is recommended to help select seed mixes and plan reseeding strategies.
In some cases, financial assistance for reseeding and range recovery may be available from various state and federal programs and agencies. Check with local sources to see if your weed management/range recovery program qualifies.
Predation Table of Contents Summary