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Economics and optimal frequency of Wyoming big sagebrush control with tebuthiuron

TitleEconomics and optimal frequency of Wyoming big sagebrush control with tebuthiuron
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsTorell, LA, McDaniel, KC, Ochoa, CG
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Start Page77-84

The optimal frequency of tebuthiuron (N-[5-(dimetylethyl)-1,3,4-thiadiazol-2yl]-N,N9-dimethylurea) treatments was investigated for Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle and Young) when added forage for livestock
and wildlife are considered to be the economic benefit of the treatment. Data collected at 8 northwest New Mexico study sites were used to define key relationships for the economic analysis. This long-lived sagebrush control practice was found to be a viable investment for landowners who participate in available cost-share programs. At productive sites, where average herbaceous production increased to over 700 kg/ha following big sagebrush control, the economic value of added forage justified the total cost of the herbicide treatment. Tebuthiuron rates higher than 0.5 kg active ingredient/ha lengthened the expected life of the brush control treatment, but the extended life did not justify the added cost. The threshold abundance of sagebrush needed for economical control was found to be variable, depending on treatment cost, study site, and the economic value of forage. With a 50:50 cost-share arrangement and with forage valued at $7/AUM, the economic sagebrush canopy threshold from the livestock grazing perspective was estimated to range between 6% and 14%, depending on site productivity. A second brush control treatment would optimally be implemented before forage production was fully depleted by the recovering brush canopy. Because some native fauna are closely tied to big sagebrush plant communities and benefit from the shrubs’ presence, the trade-off in the desired abundance of big sagebrush must be weighed between economic considerations and other resource values of interest.