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Option For Prickley Pear Management

Written on: 09/25/2007 12:43 by: TDA Tracks        
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Nov/Dec 2006 Issue of Texas Deer Association Tracks

Prickly pear cactus occurs throughout most of Texas and in most areas it has the ability to increase in abundance very rapidly. It may have some value as food and cover for wildlife such as quail, deer, and javelina as long as the stands do not become too dense. If prickly pear is allowed to spread uncontrolled, it can impede the movement of wildlife especially deer. The plants are extremely tolerant of drought and rob moisture from the more desirable forage species. Prickly pear population monitoring and control should be part of the wildlife habitat management plan.

A new option for prickly pear control is now available from Dow AgroSciences through a new product called Vista® herbicide. Supplemental labeling was accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 10, 2005 for the use of Vista to control broadleaf weeds including prickly pear cactus on rangeland and permanent grass pastures. As the name implies, this label is supplemental to the original federal label which allows the use of Vista for selective postemergence control of annual and perennial broadleaf weeds and woody brush in non-cropland areas and pine plantations. The supplemental labeling only allows the use of Vista on rangeland and permanent grass pastures in the states of Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. Vista contains the active ingredient, fluroxypyr, which is a close cousin to triclopry, the active ingredient in Remedy® herbicide.

Actually Vista offers the third alternative for pricklypear control. Tordon® 22K herbicide, which contains picloram as the active ingredient, has been the only herbicide recommended for prickly pear control for many years. Then in 2004, EPA accepted a label for Surmount® herbicide which is a mixture of fluroxypyr and picloram. This product is registered for the control of woody plants, annual and perennial weeds including prickly pear. Registered use sites include rangeland, permanent grass pastures, fencerows, non-irrigation ditchbanks, and around farm buildings.

The primary advantage offered by Vista is that it is not a restricted use pesticide and does not require a state pesticide applicator’s license. It provides good control of prickly pear especially when each pad is sprayed individually on both sides. The chemical is absorbed through the pads and its effects can be seen much sooner than with Tordon 22k. In field trials conducted by Texas A&M University in Tom Green and Crockett Counties on Lindheimer prickly pear, Vista is providing comparable control to Tordon 22k three years after application. The treatments were applied by hand to each individual plant and excellent control was achieved with a one-half percent concentration of Vista in water. Research is still limited on broadcast sprays of Vista.

In most cases prickly pear control with Tordon 22k has been very successful. However it can take as long as three years after application before the pear begins to die. This long period of time between application and control is considered a disadvantage by many ranchers. Tordon 22k is a restricted use pesticide and its purchase requires an applicator’s license. Tordon enters the plant through the pads and roots and can be applied on plains prickly pear at any of the year as long as the pear is healthy and there is soil moisture. Plains prickly pear primarily grows in the northern half of the state. As a broadcast spray on plains prickly pear, Tordon 22k should be applied at the rate of one and one-half to two pints per acre.

The best way to control Lindheimer prickly pear (found in Southern half of the state) with broadcast sprays is to use Tordon 22k in combination with a controlled burn. An intense controlled burn should be conducted from December through March and then Tordon 22k should be applied in mid-April through May. If a controlled burn isn’t possible then Tordon 22K can be applied anytime during the year but the optimum time is late August to early November. Tordon 22k should be applied on Lindheimer pear at the rate of two pints per acre on unburned rangeland and at one pint per acre on burned ground.

Individual plant treatments of either type of prickly pear are efficient when the plants occur at low densities. For these types of treatments, Tordon 22K should be used in water at a one-percent concentration. As with broadcast sprays, a surfactant should be added at a one-quarter percent solution. In all cases good spray coverage of the plants is essential. It is a good idea to add a spray marking dye, such as Hi-Lite™ blue Dye, for identifying the sprayed plants and to monitor spray coverage.

Surmount herbicide delivers faster action from the fluroxypyr and greater root kill from the picloram. Because it contains picloram, it is a restricted use pesticide. Broadcast sprays of Surmount can be applied on both plains and Lindheimer prickly pear at three to four pints per acre in spring or fall when rainfall is anticipated. For individual plant treatments, one to two percent concentrations of Surmount are recommended with a nonionic surfactant. Again good plant coverage means better control. During the second year following application, Surmount usually shows better prickly pear control than with Tordon 22k. However during the third year after application control with the two products has been about equal.

When applying any pesticide, one should always read and follow the label. County extension agents and private consultants can also be a good source for information on the use of pesticides.

Nov/Dec 2006 Issue of Texas Deer Association Tracks