Evaluating the Effectiveness of Non-chemical Management Methods for Reducing Losses in Pasture Forage Quality, Quantity, and Utilization from Canada Thistle

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $9,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Mark Renz
University of Wisconsin

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational, pasture fertility, stocking rate, stockpiled forages
  • Crop Production: application rate management, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, competition, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    Canada thistle (Cirsium Arvense) has been identified as a problem weed in Wisconsin pastures. While abatement typically involves the use of herbicides, few studies have evaluated other methods in rotationally grazed pastures. This research focuses on four weed control methods suggested by a focus group composed of farmers, Extension agents, and agency staff. We will assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a rotationally-grazed control, the application of an herbicide followed by rotational grazing, mob grazing for one year followed by rotational grazing, and mob grazing for two years. Measurements will consist of Canada thistle cover and stem density estimates as well as forage production and utilization at each grazing event. Research will be conducted on three separate pastures with four replications at each site. In addition to this field-based research, a survey of farmers using pasture-based rotational grazing practices will be conducted to collect data on perceptions of mob grazing, Canada thistle, favored control methods, and factors affecting willingness to adopt alternative control methods in the future. The data collected during both phases of this study will be disseminated through fact sheets distributed through the UW Extension, pasture walks, conferences, field days, publications, and through a reconvening of the focus group. This proposed study will provide invaluable data on the effectiveness of common control measures on Canada thistle populations in rotationally grazed pastures as well as how non-chemical control methods such as mob grazing can be utilized as abatement strategies

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Expected short-term outcomes include developing an understanding of the potential costs and benefits associated with different weed abatement strategies that seek to control Canada thistle populations effectively and affordably. The measurements that we take and the statistical and narrative interpretation that results will help to increase awareness of alternatives to chemical control methods as well as provide information about implementing those strategies. These outcomes will be directed towards members of the focus group, all of which are capable of distributing information to their considerable networks of producers and educators. Intermediate outcomes will include the extension of this information to grazing networks and sustainable agriculture organizations as well as publication in peer reviewed journals, all with the end goal of successful adoption of best practices recommended by our research. The information distributed will also include a discussion about mob grazing and its evolving definition. Using the survey we will also identify the forces affecting adoption of recommended practices and work with the focus group to overcome any obstacles to adoption.
    Long-term outcomes include an important contribution to a knowledge base of non-chemical weed control strategies and their implementation specific to Wisconsin and the upper midwest. Additionally, as mob grazing continues to attract attention and interest within grazing communities, this study will pave the way for future research on the technique.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.