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Question of the Week



Permalink How can I control mesquite without jeopardizing future organic production?

M.C.
Texas

Answer: Mechanical methods of mesquite control have varying levels of success. Even chemical control is not completely successful without repeated applications and constant attention to new growth. Having mesquite on your land can be exasperating, but if kept in check can actually become a beneficial contribution to a farm.

Mowing is discouraged as a control method, because this activity trains the tree to become a bush. Repeated mowings often encourage crown development, and in general make future control more difficult.

Grubbing is effective if you are able to remove the crown. This is an enlarged portion of the root just below the soil line. It is the principle carbohydrate storage structure and the source of future sproutings. However, even if the crown is removed, the new growth will often begin from buds on the roots below the crown. Even though, crown removal remains the best way to effectively reduce re-sprouting of mesquite.

If you are able, you can conduct a burn after you have grubbed up the crowns. Grubbing exposes sensitive plant tissue and builds up fuel necessary for an intensely hot burn. If the fire is not hot enough, it will not kill the plant but merely defoliate it and encourage it to re-sprout.

Mature, single-stemmed mesquite trees can increase the aesthetics of a landscape if they are not too numerous. They are also much more difficult to remove. For this reason it is advisable to concentrate on new seedlings and young bushes and trees. If the infestation is small, use a grubber or root plow to remove these plants individually. If the infestation is wide-spread, encompassing small and medium-size trees and bushes, consider root plowing, chaining, or roller chopping followed by a controlled burn to remove most of the biomass. It will most likely be necessary to grub out re-sprouts for several years after to obtain optimal control.

Make sure you contact your local USDA-NRCS office or county Extension agent if you plan on conducting a burn. They will be able to advise you on the legality and practicality of this activity, and may be able to offer assistance.

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