Mesquite is one of the biggest enemies faced by southwestern ranchers. The bushy, deep-rooted plant populates pastures by the millions across much of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, robbing grass of precious water and limiting much-needed grazing. Its thorns can injure cattle and horses. And they’ve done their damage on more than one pair of chaps.
But there’s finally a mesquite management program that can help ranchers obtain stronger and more consistent control of the rangeland menace. Sendero® herbicide from Dow AgroSciences is enabling ranchers to obtain better grazing from perennial grasses that are the lifeblood of most cow-calf or stocker operations.
Native grasses are in a constant battle with mesquite for water and soil nutrients. And in stressful conditions, like the droughts of 2011 and 2012, mesquite becomes more of a resource robber.
Dr. Charles Hart, range and pasture development specialist with Dow AgroSciences in Stephenville, Texas, conducts rangeland research to help producers get the most out of their forage through better weed and brush control. For southwestern cattlemen and women, much of his attention is aimed at controlling mesquite.
“The drought took a significant toll on shallow rooted plants like perennial grasses and forbs,” Hart says. “We had a tremendous amount of perennial grass die off. Unfortunately, what that does is promote mesquite. Mother nature wants to fill a void. The most opportunistic plants want to take over. A lot of times that means mesquite.
“Now, mesquite will show affects of drought. It will drop its leaves and leaves will turn yellow. But the plant goes into a safe mode and waits for better conditions. It is well adapted to drought.”
In attempts to control the pesky plant, many ranchers have used a herbicide program in conjunction with controlled burning and mechanical removal. Moderate success has been seen. But due to herbicides being sensitive to climate and environmental conditions, control has ranged from 40% to 80% kill, with no sure treatment plan to regularly reach the upper levels of mesquite management.
“We’ve needed to reduce the variability of control,” Hart says. “We have conducted some five years of research to develop Sendero to provide the end user with a herbicide that will provide consistent control. We want that product to produce results that are up to that rancher’s expectations as many times as possible.
“Since Sendero was released into the market in 2012, we’ve been able reduce the variability in control, increase the amount of control and provide a product that more times that not is going to give you what you expect.”
The revolutionary herbicide provides 15% better control and a consistent 70-80% control rate. “With the right conditions, you should be able to kill and control 7-8 out of 10 plants that are treated. They should be root dead,” Hart says.