Controlling variegated thistle in East Coast North Island hill-country
Variegated thistle can dominate north-facing slopes on North Island East Coast hill-country reducing pasture production and livestock carrying capacity. On a hill-country sheep and beef property near Gisborne, the herbicides 2,4-D + clopyralid were applied in early-May by knapsack in combination with a June aerial application of 2,4-D ester. This was more effective than a single June aerial application of 2,4-D ester in reducing the abundance of variegated thistle and enabling grasses from the seedbank to colonise the bare ground in the herbicide-treated patches. Mixtures of grasses, legumes and herbs, oversown onto bare patches previously occupied by thistle plants, did not establish on a north-facing slope. While they did establish on a south-facing slope, the sown species did not persist, most likely due to selective grazing. To establish competitive pasture, natural germination from the seedbank may be less risky than oversowing seed into thistle patches, if desirable species are present in the seedbank.
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