Weed districts, chemicals aid battle
Is it financially worth controlling cheatgrass? That’s a question facing many ranchers in Wyoming and the West.
“Cheatgrass is a considerable cost to control. You’re looking at $10 to $20 per acre or more,” says Brian Connely, supervisor of the Natrona County Weed and Pest Control District in Wyoming. “If you have a valuable pasture getting overrun by cheatgrass, you can make the treatment pay.”
Connely says ranchers should take every step possible to avoid weed infestations in the first place. This includes proper grazing management, keeping soil disturbances on rangelands to a minimum and quickly reclaiming disturbed sites.
Ranchers can turn to weed and pest districts, conservation districts and the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service for help.
Connely says many weed and pest districts provide free weed consultations to landowners, will survey properties and give control recommendations, may provide cost-share for herbicides, and make available equipment and associated training.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, and others are assisting with the control of cheatgrass and cactus south of Casper on lands owned by Garrett Ranch Co. and Miles Land and Livestock Co.
Garrett Ranch is operated by Pete Garrett, son Steve, daughter Laura Miles and son-in-law Jack Miles. The Miles ranch is owned by Jim and Peggy Price. The two operations are in an area important for both livestock production and wildlife habitat.
Connely says that since cheatgrass is fall-germinating, herbicide application in September is usually very effective.
Following directions closely is key to success. “When you break one cycle of cheatgrass, the control usually lasts for a couple of years,” says Connely, who notes this generally gives landowners enough time to establish desirable plants that help keep future weed infestations at bay.
Connely says BASF’s Plateau is effective, but directions must be followed closely. “If you apply it too heavy, you can kill desirable grasses, and if you don’t apply enough you won’t get effective cheatgrass control. The application needs to be done with well-calibrated equipment.”
Connely says Dow AgroSciences’ Tordon 22K was used effectively to treat cactus in the same area. The cactus is treated in full bloom, typically late June, which allows a lower treatment rate than during other times of the growing season.
“This is a selective broadleaf herbicide designed for rangeland applications, which can also help control perennial weeds such as Canada thistle and Russian knapweed,” Connely says.
For more information on managing cheatgrass and cactus, see the UW CES bulletins at www.uwyo.edu/cessupport/agpubs/
Search_Start.asp. Type in either “cheatgrass” or “cactus” in the publication keyword box.
This article published in the February, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.