Serecea Lespedeza

(K.C.) Well folks, I’m K.C. Olson with Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University and I’d like to spend a little time this afternoon talking about growing season prescribed burning for sericea lespedeza control. It’s a fact that one of the most successful grazing management schemes of all time is practiced on a wide scale here in the Flint Hills where yearling cattle come into Kansas. They spend 75 to 100 days on Native Tallgrass Prairie and in most circumstances immediately before those cattle will arrive, we will conduct an annual prescribed burn. And that burn has the effect of enhancing steer gains for that short period of time that the steers are here. Now, I’m saying this to give you just a little bit of a prelude. Our sericea lespedeza control measures have to be compatible with that production system. Intensively early stocking or double stocking as it is sometimes called has been outrageously successful for almost a century. Now the trick with sericea lespedeza control is it has to occur at a point in the plants growth cycle where it’s vulnerable to damage. And with sericea lespedeza, along with a number of other plants, damage is most likely to occur between when that plant flowers and when it’s complete with its reproductive cycle. That happens to be in the months of August, September and October here in Kansas. A couple of things that we’re trying here at the University for a non-herbicide related control mechanism. First of all is moving our window of prescribed burning from the Spring of the year, to the latter part of the growing season. We’ve evaluated two burning treatments-one conducted approximately on August 1st and another one conducted on approximately September 1st. And this is very unusual, not a common practice for the Flint Hills. But what happens when we apply prescribed burning during that interval of time when sericea lespedeza is vulnerable to damage, we can…the later we press that fire into the calendar year, completely suppress seed production. We’ve done that for two consecutive years. We feel like the September 1st burning treatment has been most successful and from a cost standpoint, exclusive of insurance burning costs about 75 cents an acre to conduct. The least expensive comparable herbicide control method costs between $8 and $16 dollars an acre. And it’s a repeating cost; it’s something that’s going to have to be conducted, if not yearly at least every other, every third year. Now burning is something we do anyway in the Flint Hills on pastures that we use for stocker production. If we could convince ourselves that even if there is a trade off in livestock performance, that comes from instead of burning in the Spring, we then burn in the late Summer, even if there’s a compromise in animal performance, we are probably likely to be money ahead because we’re saving a lot of money and time in oversight costs. Now another treatment that we’re currently evaluating for sericea lespedeza also involves this late season interval of vulnerability. And in this circumstance when the steers leave, when the yearling cattle leave, in mid-July or early August we then follow those yearling cattle with a short term, very intense period of sheep grazing. We use large mature sheep and they will respect a normal five wire barbed fence. We use mature sheep because they require very little in the way of animal husbandry and we also are using mature sheep because there is a ready supply just one tier of states to the west. In contrast to other sericea control mechanisms that cost money, for our producers here in the Flint Hills that are used to custom stocker production, this might potentially become an alternative income stream. And over the first three years of our four year study, sheep show a very clean preference for broad leaf plants over grasses and the amount of seed suppression we’ve been able to get just with normal grazing activity coming from these sheep has been absolutely incredible-reduction in seed production in the order of tenfold relative to an untreated pasture. Folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment and I thank you for taking the time to watch it.

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