A Model Explaining Medusahead Invasion and Novel Targeted Grazing Approaches of Control

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Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski) is currently one of the biggest threats to rangelands and livestock operations in the Western US. High silica concentrations in medusahead contribute to its invasiveness. I developed a model to explain how silica is involved in the invasion process, and attempted to manipulate silica to increase use of the grass by livestock. Experiments were conducted to determine: 1) whether rotational grazing on established forages of improved nutritional quality would provide supplemental nutrients to increase cattle use of medusahead; 2) evaluate intake of and preference for medusahead treated with a glyphosate herbicide at different rates by sheep; and 3) evaluate intake and selection of medusahead by cattle by separating the effects of a glyphosate herbicide (Roundup®) from other chemicals in the formulation (salt, adjuvant). Additionally, experiments were conducted to 4) determine the nutritional value and digestibility of medusahead treated with Roundup® at different rates and at different plant particle sizes; and 5) determine if cattle grazing with trampling can increase seeding success on medusahead-invaded rangelands. Rotational grazing from supplemental pastures to medusahead-invaded pastures increased medusahead use by cattle during the second year of the study. Furthermore, glyphosate did not increase medusahead consumption in a choice between three glyphosate treatments, but did in a two-way choice test. Cattle grazed glyphosate-treated medusahead more than that of the non-treated grass and completely avoided the salt-treated grass. The active ingredient in a glyphosate herbicide increased consumption of medusahead while other ingredients in the herbicide (i.e., salt and adjuvant) had no influence on this choice. A smaller particle size increased the digestibility of medusahead compared to larger particle sizes. Glyphosate also increases digestibility, but not as much as particle size. Finally, cattle trampling did not help establish seeded plant species, and the seeding attempt was unsuccessful. Thus, grazing rotations between improved pastures and medusahead-infested rangeland, and the combined glyphosate application-grazing are new approaches for medusahead control, as they prepare a seed bed for revegetation and increase the nutritional quality of the grass for improved livestock nutrition.