The University of Arizona

Response of Biomass and Seedbanks of Rangeland Functional Groups to Mechanical Control of Yellow Starthistle

Virginia Matzek, Shannon Hill


Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis L.) is a nonnative pest of rangelands that decreases forage quality and yield. Mowing may control starthistle effectively and complement herbicide use in an integrated pest management strategy, but little research has investigated its effects on nontarget vegetation. We monitored biomass and seedbank size of annual and perennial species, in addition to starthistle, in response to 3 yr of mowing treatments, either mowing alone or in combination with solarization tarps or thatch removal. All mowing treatments were very effective at reducing starthistle biomass and seedbank: mowing alone
reduced biomass 9262%, mowing with thatch removal 9161%, and mowing with solarization 9561%. Compared to seedbank sizes in the control plots, yellow starthistle seedbank decreased by 100% (mowing alone), 92% (mowing + thatch
removal), and 100% (mowing with solarization) after 3 yr of treatment. Mowing also significantly improved perennial species’ biomass. Annual species’ biomass varied on a year-to-year basis but was not significantly affected by any treatment. Seedbank sizes of annuals and perennials also did not differ according to mowing treatment. This research indicates that late-season mowing can effectively reduce starthistle biomass without adverse effects on other vegetation and that mowing alone is sufficient to reduce starthistle seedbank size without additional methods of decreasing seed rain.

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