2009-04-09 / Community News

Yaupon Managment Techniques

The Post Oak Savannah Ecoregion in Texas extends from the Red River in Northeast Texas to Victoria. Early settlers described this ecoregion as being dominated by waist high grasses with trees scattered throughout. This open grassland savannah was historically maintained by naturally occurring wildfires.

This gradually changed as the land was more intensively used. Livestock that once were free ranging were confined by fences and often reduced the fuel load needed for fires. Also, an increasing number of roads allowed for better control of wildfires. These and other factors led to timber and brush encroachment. Today, many areas have a dense understory of yaupon under the post oak canopy.

Yaupon is an evergreen plant that can attain heights up to 25 feet. In moderation, the plant is beneficial because it does provide browse for deer and berries for a variety of wildlife. It also provides nesting sites for birds as well as protective cover for wildlife. However, solid thick stands of the plant are not beneficial for wildlife or cattle because it excludes desirable native grasses, forbs and other browse species.

Research conducted at the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area in Anderson County showed that yaupon can be controlled by individual plant treatment. This research project used diesel only or mixing concentrations of triclopyr (Garlon 4) with diesel and applying to the base of individual plants. The addition of triclopyr did increase the kill by about 5% but the additional cost make this technique more expensive.

Although the individual plant treatment is effective, it is not practical when trying to control solid thickets of the plant. Mechanical methods are the only practical solution when trying to address large areas of yaupon. One technique that is now being used by some landowners involves the use of a small dozer, but the dozer is not used in the traditional manner.

The dozer blade is set about 12-15 inches above the ground and the yaupon and small trees are run over. No trees are pushed out as the dozer goes around all of the bigger trees. This method results in the yaupon being broken off instead of being removed in the traditional methods by clearing with a dozer. The traditional clearing method results primarily in a grass response. The vegetative response is totally different when the yaupon is walked down. This technique improves cattle as well as wildlife habitat.

Breaking the yaupon off but not disturbing the soil results in a response of grasses, forbs and browse plants. After the brush is walked down, the area looks extremely "trashy". However, if normal rainfall is received, there will be enough fuel to burn the treated area in a year or two. This will clean up much of the yaupon stems. Some landowners use a rake on a dozer to totally clean up the area after a burn.

There will be some regrowth of yaupon in the treated area but there will be a big increase in more desirable browse plants such as rattan, American beautyberry and others. The increase in forb production is also beneficial for the deer while the increase in grass production is beneficial for cattle production. Some of the areas may need to be retreated in five to ten years, however, a good burning program will often keep the treated areas in excellent habitat condition for deer and livestock.

To contract your local biologist or sign up for a free "Eye on Nature" e-newsletter, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ opfieldnotes.

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