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DVIDS – News – Do you have goats? A different approach to managing invasive species.

By on September 14, 2022 0

Invasive species are increasingly invading our natural landscapes. These invasive plants can upset the delicate balance of the existing ecosystem by crowding out our native tussock-like grasses for space and resources and smothering the existing vegetation on our grasslands. Over the years, Sericea Lespedeza has encroached on open grassy habitat, fencerows, drainage basins, and the shores of lakes and rivers on US Army Corps of Engineers land. These invasive species have been eradicated in the past, with limited success.

Sericea Lespedeza is a very aggressive and drought resistant perennial. Originally native to Asia, it was introduced as a forage crop in the United States in the 1930s and has completely outgrown the natural habitat ever since. The best way to control this invasive plant is to prevent seed production and try to control it before it flowers and releases seeds.

Although much research has been done to document invasive species, little research has been done on effective control methods. Methods of controlling invasive plant species vary widely and may include: chemical control through the use of herbicides, mechanical control through prescribed burning or mowing of affected areas, or biological control through the introduction of a species that preys on the invading species in some way. This is where four-legged friends with big appetites come to play.

The USACE Tulsa District is trying something different to reduce the use of chemical applications at the project level. The practice of invasive plant species management, using goats as a means of biological control, is underway at Fall River Lake and John Redmond Reservoir in Kansas. “The current landscape in these areas will allow goats to maintain the Sericea Lespedeza and existing grasslands with minimal damage to the landscape and without the application of chemicals,” says Christopher Wright, contract specialist for the Tulsa District.

A contract was awarded for the goats to graze on a designated area to aid in the removal of invasive species. The majority of Sericea Lespedeza was maintained at a level that goats would normally graze. The current grass is grazed at a height of about half the current height, including the flower of the plants, before going to the seed heads. Grass height is closely monitored by the goat manager to ensure consistent management of the grazing area.

“The contract was awarded to use goats to assist with invasive species management to reduce the use of chemical application methods.” said Eugene Goff, operations project manager for the Kansas region.

So why goats? Goats have a unique characteristic that sets them apart from almost all other types of livestock. They prefer to eat brush and weeds than grass because they are browsers. They can also control invasive weeds without disturbing the soil. Using goats to control invasive plant species is preferable to other biological control methods, such as insect releases, because the movement and spread of captive livestock can be more easily controlled and does not pose a risk of secondary invasion, and let’s face it, who I wouldn’t mind watching these cute dudes work.

Seeing the progress that has been made in just three weeks is very impressive. You can look at the fenced area and see where the goats have already gone, it looks like it has just been mown compared to the sections where they have not yet gone.

Currently there are goats grazing in the Fall River and John Redmond projects. The current schedule is to have goats work for 30 calendar days in designated weed control areas. The results will be evaluated once the contract period is over. “The way forward will be reviewed for future contract options, to have a base offering with option years to use goats for expanded/enhanced invasive species management practices in the Kansas area of ​​the Tulsa District .” Says Eugene Goff.

Date taken: 14.09.2022
Date posted: 14.09.2022 10:46
Story ID: 429282
Location: KS, United States

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