Unwanted trees and shrubs can become an invasive nuisance in grasslands managed for wildlife, native plants or cattle forage. Keeping prairies and grazing or haying meadows open for maximum benefits is a challenge for property managers.
A news release says the challenge has been greater in recent decades in Missouri as above average rainfall and rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere are boosting shrub and tree growth at the expense of grasses and wildflowers, experts said recently at a workshop sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in Sedalia.
Less than one-tenth of one percent of Missouri’s native prairie remains in scattered remnants.
The species and scope of unwanted woody vegetation cover can vary. So, professional land managers use a variety of approaches to control problems.
· Prescribed fire is a proven and relatively inexpensive tool for reducing unwanted growth, as native grasses and wildflowers evolved with fire. Their growth is often boosted by a prescribed burn, while woody stems are retarded or killed.
· Some large patches of shrubby growth may create moist soil and vegetation conditions that make fire ineffective. Mechanical equipment that can cut, chip, or shred growth can quickly eliminate a patch. Applying follow up prescribed burns in following years can keep growth at bay.
· Cattle rubbing on large trees or hanging out for shade can reduce vegetation under the tree and thus leave less fuel for fire, making fire ineffective in killing trees. They will need to be cut down or killed. Contractors with special equipment may need to be hired to eliminate large groves.
· Some native shrubs such as varieties of sumac, wild plum, or dogwood can begin choking out grasses and wildflowers if left unchecked. Professional land managers often use herbicide treatments with special equipment and seasonal timing to reduce their prevalence while not harming desirable plants.
For assistance in controlling woody vegetation in grasslands, call your local MDC office or visit the website, mdc.mo.gov/property.