Grazing Strategies to Control Medusahead in California

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $138,539.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: continuous cropping
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: competition, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Medusahead (Mh), an invasive noxious grass from Eurasia, infests 5 million acres in northern California, and has extended south to Ventura county. In the western U.S., 62 million ac are at risk of Mh invasion, which results in a loss of $20/ac/yr in grazing capacity, loss of recreational value, obliteration of biodiversity, and increased fires. Mh threatens the ecological and economic integrity of rangeland ranching, one of the major industries of California. A core team of ranchers, Farm Advisors, Extension specialists and professors will develop, test, and disseminate precision grazing and revegetation strategies to control Mh without the use of chemicals, fire, or costly investments. We will fill a serious gap of knowledge about livestock-medusahead interactions and will use detailed models and monitoring of Mh biological cycle to identify and recommend optimal timing and method of intensive grazing to control Mh. High-intensity grazing will be achieved by using temporary fences and palatable supplement placed in patches of infestation. Detailed information on the ecology of Mh will be collaboratively generated and used by a diverse group including ranchers, high school students, NGOs, and scientists. We will implement a web-based system to forecast site- and year-specific Mh readiness. Successful completion of this project will result in a constant pressure on Mh, and in progressive reclamation of infested land. This project will directly treat ~250 ac per year, and it will extend results directly to managers of tens of thousands of acres and indirectly to millions of acres infested by Mh.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Design a simple and cost-effective “precision” grazing method to control Mh, and incorporate it into the grazing systems of California annual rangelands. Study the effects of spatial distribution of attractants such as supplement on spatial distribution of grazing pressure, and use new knowledge to implement supplementation methods to reduce Mh infestations. Develop and implement a site-specific and simple system to identify and forecast the period of Mh’s greatest susceptibility to mowing and grazing, and establish a warning system for ranchers to accurately time grazing. Disseminate, demonstrate, and document results in extension fact sheets, field visits, and newsletters by Farm Advisors.
    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.