By Ellen H. Brisendine
“Where huisache persists, it may be more invasive than mesquite,” says Benny Martinez, range and pasture specialist with Corteva Agriscience. Martinez works in South Texas, helping landowners deal with the diverse brush species found in the area from Refugio to San Antonio, to Del Rio, and to the Rio Grande Valley.
This month, he explains why huisache can be a problem species and provides some control and management tips.
Huisache grows faster than mesquite, Martinez explains. The plant can grow an average of three to four feet a year, compared to mesquite’s one to two feet of growth per year.
Huisache is a prolific seed producer. “Some sources estimate that huisache can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds per year, per plant. Since it is such as fast grower, huisache can actually choke out mesquite, which is almost hard to believe. But because it grows so much faster, huisache can create a canopy over other trees or other plants that are slower growers. It tends to create a monoculture,” he explains.
Huisache can really take off in areas where the soil has been disturbed. Martinez advises landowners in South Texas to watch for huisache encroachment in any areas that have had mechanical brush treatments.
If you have root plowed an area on the ranch, “have a plan for a follow-up treatment to address the huisache in Year 2 or 3 after the mechanical treatment,” Martinez advises. “The huisache seeds are out there. When you root plow, you plant those seeds. I’ve seen situations where we had up to a thousand plants per acre of huisache seedlings that came up, obviously requiring some attention.”
Huisache is an opportunistic plant that has adapted to periodic drought. “During dry times, huisache plants will shed leaves and go into a semi-dormant state,” Martinez says. It may appear to be dead, but “when you get that rain event, the plant puts on leaves.”
Martinez suggests that landowners treat huisache when the plants are small, one to two feet tall. “I strongly encourage landowners to treat the huisache seedlings using the individual plant treatment (IPT) method when the population is light. This will help the landowner get in front of a possible problem versus having to deal with a larger plant.
“We recommend a mix of 1% Sendero, .25% non-ionic surfactant, and .5% dye for IPT,” he says.
If the huisache plants are larger or cover a large acreage, a fall aerial application may be more efficient.
“Typically, our biggest window of opportunity tends to be in September and October because we tend to have a fairly consistent pattern of fall rains. When we get a fall rain, the huisache trees begin to flush with leaves and start making carbohydrates,” he says.
For broadcast applications, Martinez says Sendero should be mixed with another product, such as Tordon. Huisache can develop a leaf canopy that is denser than mesquite’s canopy. A blend of herbicides will help the product infiltrate the canopy.
Get advice from range and pasture management experts to choose the right huisache control method for your ranch. A professional like Martinez, or the scientists in the university system and federal agencies, can help you evaluate the cost-effectiveness of treating for unwanted brush, how to plan for maintaining your preferred level and mix of brush species, and other financial and production variables on your ranch.
You can contact Corteva for more information by visiting their listing on TheCattlemanBuyersGuide.com
Summer Plant Inventory a Good Predictive Tool
Take a walk through your ranch this month to develop an inventory or catalog of the plants in the pastures.
Benny Martinez, Corteva Agriscience, does this when he starts working with a client to “get a really good feel for the primary plant problems. This helps us predict what the end result may look like after we take out the primary problem.
“We are going to have a release of something when we take out an invasive plant like mesquite or huisache,” he says. Knowing what else is out there will help the landowner predict what plants might flourish or might decline after an herbicide treatment.
“Sometimes we can have other plants that are very beneficial to wildlife, so that helps to make a better assessment about how to move forward with that particular pasture. If that pasture is primarily used for cattle, then we know we want to get a little bit more aggressive with some of those other secondary species that may exist out there. Those are always things that I try to consider when I look at a pasture,” he explains.
Huisache is excerpted from the August 2019 issue of The Cattleman magazine. Join today to start your subscription.
Please take a second to visit our Bull Buyer’s Guide and Ranch Services Guide Advertisers.