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Restoring Rangelands for Wildlife and Livestock

2020 Modoc County Cattlemen's Field Day

By Mavrick Farnam, Olivia Lappin, and Lizzeth Mendoza

University of California Cooperative Extension - Modoc

On Saturday, June 27th the Devil’s Garden Research & Education team accompanied the Modoc County Cattlemen at their annual tour and bbq in Likely. Our team explored rangelands in Modoc while learning about juniper cutting and the benefits it has for deer and restoring natural habitats. One of the key discussions was on how to raise awareness of invasive species, especially Mediterranean Sage (Med Sage) that can come in during and after juniper cutting. The tour was very informative and raised awareness to some of the issues Modoc County beef producers are currently facing and finding solutions to.

The tour started with a presentation from Jared McGarva from the McGarva Ranch Range Division discussing the West Valley Allotment Juniper Cutting Project. This is a 1400 acre project to restore watersheds, grasses, and deer habitat. This project was started in 2015 and is still currently underway thanks to Federal Sage Grouse Habitat funding. With local deer populations declining in recent years, California Deer Association (CDA) in conjunction with USFS, BLM, NRCS, and interested private landowners, have been working to restore migratory routes and habitat areas in Modoc County. Cutting encroaching juniper trees has been one of the methods utilized to improve deer habitat. Dense populations of juniper provide less water and more canopy cover of the soil surface. This has led to a major decrease in perennial grasses, forbes, and desirable brush species. After the removal of juniper, treated areas have proper hydrologic function, decreased soil erosion and provide feed for migrating mule deer and livestock. Our team experienced first-hand the reappearance of streams and meadows throughout the West Valley Allotment showing that these restoration projects are working.

Figure 1. Modoc County Cattlemen and Cattlewomen discussing juniper cutting.

Although juniper cutting has a positive effect on restoring watersheds and habitat it has also brought the issue of invasive species like Med. Sage (Salvia aethiopis). Guest speaker Tom Getts, the Cropping Systems/Weed Science Advisor in Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra Counties for UCCE, discussed how invasive plants displace desirable plants that could better support wildlife and agriculture in a particular area.

Mediterranean sage is an invasive species that has spread over 1.3 million acres across the western United States and continues to spread to this date. Tom mentioned that Med. Sage can be identified by recognizing its hairy triangular like leaves with a bluish color. It is a biennial plant, meaning that in the second year it will bolt from a rosette and begin to produce white flowers at the top. In California it is a ‘B’ rated weed and is unpalatable for most livestock and wildlife making it undesirable.

Figure 2. Mediterranean Sage. Photo retrieved from Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Tom explained that there are many steps that can be taken when working towards eradicating harmful invasive plants and the best way to do this is through an integrated approach: cultural, physical, biological, chemical.

Below are some steps that Tom discussed for you to take towards eliminating Med. Sage in your area.

1) ID your invasive plant: Once you are able to correctly identify the invasive plant, you can conduct some research to understand its weaknesses and how best to eradicate it. There are many great identification resources such as:

- Online tools (UC WeedRIC, USDA Plants Database, Cal Flora)

- Talking with people who have experience with weed and plant identification (UC Davis Plant Lab, FS Botanist’s, PCA’s, Ag department)

- Weed and plant identification books

- PLant identification apps (They get better every day!)

- Contacting your local farm advisor

2) Cultural Control:

- Prevent Dispersal: Clean equipment and vehicles to prevent seed dispersal and avoid moving soils around that could result in seeds being moved.

- Create a Competitive Environment: Use correct fertilizers and proper irrigation methods in actively managed sites. On rangeland use management practices to favor desirable vegetation over the weeds. In degraded areas planting competitive vegetation may be required to shift the plant community to a desirable state.

3) Physical Control:

- Hand Pulling/Cultivation/Mowing/Burning: Each invasive plant requires a different method of physical removal. Make sure to do initial research to understand how to most effectively physically remove your weeds. Hand pulling, digging and cultivation can all be effective for Med. sage from the seedling to rosette stage.

4) Biological Control:

-   Grazing: Allowing the cor

rect species to graze the affected area at the right time of year can reduce invasive plant reproduction and dispersal.

- Introducing a biological control species from the native range: Studies have shown that introducing the Phrydiuchus Tau and P. Spilmani weevils to an area with Med. Sage can reduce it’s populations. These weevils can suppress Med. Sage by laying their eggs on the petioles and midtribs of the leaf. The newly hatched larvae will penetrate the leaf and travel into the root crown of the plant where they will feed causing suppression of the plant flowering and seeding. Adult larvaes will also feed on the foliage and flowers prior to going into dormancy in the fall. When there is a large number of larvae they can cause plant death. With all biocontrol insects, they can be a good option to suppress populations but should not be the only tool used, when eradication from a site is desired.

5) Chemical Control

- Herbicides: Herbicides can be very effective at controlling invasive plants when applied at the correct growth stage. Depending on the species of plant, different herbicides may offer more effective control, and it is important to choose the correct one.Addtionally, surfactants, or spray additives may also be considered to increase herbicide efficacy. For example, Med. Sage has very hairy leaves, and an addition of a non-ionic surfactant to the spray solution can break droplet surface tension allowing to spray droplets to get past the hairs and contact the leaf (increasing absorption into the plant). For many invasives including Med. sage, the best time to apply herbicides is when the plant is young. For biennial species this is typically from the seedling stage to the rosette stage. Once plants start to flower, it is often too late to prevent seed production (even if some seed suppression can occur) .

- Some herbicides that can be used in California are:

A. Dicamba (Banvel Clarity):

Effective on the rosette stage (Limited soil activity). Restricted use material, use in cooler temperatures.

B. 2,4-D (many names):

Effective on the rosette stage (Limited soil activity). Ester formulations are more volatile, but can be more effective. Restricted use material, use in cooler temperatures.

C. Chlorsulfuron (Telar):

Effective on the rosette stage and can provide soil activity for seed bank suppression.

D. Aminopyralid (Milestone):

Effective on the rosette stage and can provide soil activity for seed bank suppression.

- You can access more information for use rates of different herbicides here: https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_S/Salvia.pdf

***Any mention of pesticide is not a recommendation or endorsement of use by the authors or the University of California. Pesticides are mentioned for informational purposes only. Always read and follow the entire label, whenever making pesticide applications. Contact your local agriculture department for permits and questions.***

The most important factors when working towards eliminating invasive plants are PERSISTENCE and EDUCATION! Learn as much as you can about the invasive plant you are looking to eradicate. Invasive plants are tricky to manage, as each requires specific removal techniques. Find the best combination of techniques and stick with it until the invasive is eliminated from the area. Tom recommends seeking assistance when you have questions about managing any invasive pest. Controlling pests is not cheap, and arming yourself with the proper information prior to implementing your management action will ensure maximum return on the investment of your time and money.

Towards the end of the tour we joined the Modoc Cattlemen and Cattlewomen for a luncheon bbq at Likely Land & Livestock hosted by Myles Flournoy. The day ended with a team roping competition. Rodney Flournoy gave the attendees a brief history presentation on the Flournoy ranch where we learned how the family overcame challenges and became a very well known established ranching business throughout California.

Overall, the Modoc County Cattlemen had a very successful event raising awareness to some of the issues that producers are currently facing in the area. Producers and other organizations in Modoc are working together to restore wildlife habitats while also supporting a thriving rural economy and sustainable public lands. This is a community effort that can benefit ranchers, outdoorsmen, hunters, and many more. If you are interested in learning more you can view any of the following links below.

Special thanks to:

  • McGarva Ranch Range Division

  • Likely Land & Livestock - Myles Flournoy

  • American Ag Credit

  • California Deer Association (CDA)

  • Alturas Chamber of Commerce

  • Tom Getts


For more information on how to eliminate weeds and invasive plants, check out the following resources:

1. UC Davis Plant Lab - https://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/research

2. UC WeedRIC - https://weedid.wisc.edu/ca/weedid.php

3. USDA Plants Database - https://plants.usda.gov/java/

4. Tom Getts Powerpoint -https://ucanr.edu/sites/lassen/files/281161.pdf

You can also contact Tom Getts, the Cropping Systems/Weed Science Advisor in Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra Counties for UCCE, at:

Office: (530) 251-2650

Email: tjgetts@ucanr.edu


Citations & Resources:

1. https://ucanr.edu/sites/lassen/files/281161.pdf

2. https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_S/Salvia.pdf

3. https://slco.org/globalassets/1-site-files/weeds/fs0427.pdf

4. http://bugwoodcloud.org/ibiocontrol/proceedings/pdf/12_521-527.pdf

5. https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_S/Salvia.pdf

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