Effects of Prickly Pear Control (Prescribed Fire x Herbicide) on Three Important Food Plants of Northern Bobwhite: An Observation

Fidel Hernandez, Scott E. Henke, Froylan Hernandez, Novy J. Silvy, Dayna Carter, D. Rollins


Millions of acres of Texas rangelands have been infested by prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.).  Because prickly pear is perceived as a nuisance plant to livestock producers, many landowners control prickly pear through a tandem of prescribed fire and an aerial application of picloram (4-amino-3,5,6-trichloropicolinic acid).  While the effectiveness of such a practice has been documented, its effects on important wildlife food plants has received little attention.  The objective was to compare density of 3 important food plants for northern bobwhite (Colinus virgnianus) between a burned-only and burned-and-sprayed area.  A 1,198-ac pasture was burned in February 1998, and subsequently sprayed with picloram a 400-ac portion in April.  Density for ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya), croton (Croton sp.), and snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) was determined by randomly sampling 40 circular plots (20 in. radius) in both treatment areas during July 1998.  Ragweed had a higher mean density in the burned-only area (19.8 plants/yd2) compared to the burned-sprayed (1.3 plants/yd2; P = 0.0001).  Croton also had a higher mean density in the burned-only area (1.6 plants/yd2) than in the burned-sprayed (0.2 plants/yd2; P = 0.02).  There was no difference in snow-on-the-mountain mean density between burn-only (0.3 plants/yd2) and burned-sprayed (0.3 plants/yd2; P = 0.5).  Because forbs represent important food plants for wildlife, further research is needed to document the immediate and long-term impacts of picloram-treated sites.


Bobwhite; brush control; cactus; forb; northern bobwhite; picloram; prescribed fire; prickly pear

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