- Additional Plants: native plants
- Animal Production: range improvement
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: weed ecology
Spotted knapweed, an extremely aggressive competitor and ecologic threat, produces 25-35 flowers/head, 60 heads/plant, and 5,000-40,000 seeds/meter squared annually. Prescribed sheep grazing is a tool used to control spotted knapweed that offsets high costs of control with herbicides and environmental concerns surrounding herbicides. However, research focused on specific details of grazing prescription protocols for spotted knapweed control at a landscape scale is in its infancy. The purpose of this research is to determine the ideal timing(s) or combination(s) of timings of defoliation on spotted knapweed to maximally reduce flowerhead and viable seed production, and minimize seed incorporation into the seedbank.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Evaluate the effects of timing of defoliation of spotted knapweed on: a) the number of buds/flowers present, b) the percent viability of seeds, and c) the total number of viable seeds produced to determine the best timing of defoliation of spotted knapweed to minimize viable seed incorporation into the seedbank annually.
Objective 2: Combine results of this study with past research and existing grazing prescription protocols to refine the technique of using sheep grazing to control spotted knapweed.
Objective 3: Educate ranchers, other landowners, livestock operators, county Extension personnel, county weed district personnel, state and federal agency personnel, Montana State University researchers, and concerned citizens about how properly timed sheep grazing to control spotted knapweed can reduce the amount of viable seed applied to the seedbank in a single growing season and can enhance the ecological integrity of the land.