Western Snowberry Response to Fire and Goat Browsing

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browse, goats, prescribed fire, weeds, woody plants


Managers of pastures in the northern tallgrass prairie region are faced with incomplete control of aggressive woody plant species, such as western snowberry (Symphoricarpus occidentalis Hook.) due to its high sprouting ability after fire or mowing and the reluctance of managers to use herbicides, which may harm desirable plant species. The objective of this study was to compare western snowberry response to fire and browsing by goats. The study was conducted from 2002 through 2006 at South Dakota State University’s Oak Lake Field Station in eastern South Dakota. Small, fenced plots of nativeprairie vegetation infested with western snowberry were established on burned (fall 2001) and unburned (>30 years) sites and grazed by goats for three to five days in late June. Western snowberry foliar cover, plant height, stem density and seed production were measured each year. Annual goat browsing in late June reduced western snowberry plant height and seed production in burned and unburned sites, but did not change foliar cover. Fire also reduced plant height and seed production. Stem density remained unchanged after four years of annual goat browsing or five years post fire and was unchanged in controls. Reducing nuisance, resprouting, woody species, such as western snowberry, in grasslands is difficult, but annual goat browsing and/or combination with frequent fire (<4 >years) can alter canopy structure and seed production.

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Sheep & Goat Research Journal



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