Farm systems analysis of two thistles of differing seasonal pasture growth impacts in North Island hill country
Models for infestations of Californian thistle (Cirsium arvense) and variegated thistle (Silybum marianum) were used to modify fortnightly pasture growth forecasts using Agricultural Production Systems simulator software using climate and soil data from a single farm (Tangihanga Station) over four aspects and three slope classes. Modelling using Farmax software was used to estimate profitability using the current farm enterprises with or without either the Californian or variegated thistles. Modelled pasture production, based on field observations of thistle infestation, was similar to estimates using animal intake (from Farmax). Californian thistle reduced pasture production in summer and autumn, while variegated thistle reduced autumn, winter and spring pasture growth. Californian thistle had a much greater overall presence (20%) than variegated thistle (9%). Both types of thistle reduced the potential to finish lambs in summer and reduced ewe wintering numbers, while the presence of Californian thistles also reduced over-wintering cattle numbers, by reducing summer-autumn pasture accumulation. Cost of control for Californian thistle ($233/ha) over two years was higher than for variegated thistle ($184/ha) over four years. Net profitability was reduced by 24% ($87/ha) by the presence of Californian thistle, and by 37% ($135/ha) by the presence of variegated thistle.
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