Control of mesquite on Southwestern ranges

TitleControl of mesquite on Southwestern ranges
Publication TypeGovernment Report
Year of Publication1943
AuthorsParker K.W
PublisherGovernment Printing Office
Keywordsgovernment publication, invasion, loss of perennial grass forage, meat production, mesquite
AbstractRange owners and livestock producers in the Southwest, vitally interested at the present time in greater meat production, have reason to be concerned at the spread of the many-branched, deep-rooted shrubs or trees known as mesquites (Prosopis spp.). These are found in ever-increasing abundance on many grassland ranges of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and portions of adjoining states. Much of the original open mesquite woodland in valley bottoms has been converted into thickets (bosques), and many of these have had to be abandoned for grazing on account of the difficulty encountered in gathering and moving cattle. This is especially true wherever screwworms are troublesome. But of even greater concern is the very considerable loss in perennial grass forage that has resulted from the invasion of mesquite into open rangelands. In this respect, mesquite constitutes a menace that in some sections has aroused a determined effort to control the plant or at least to halt further intrusion. On the other hand, mesquite has three undeniable good qualities. Its 4- to 8-inch pods, generally borne in clusters near the branch tips, are relished by livestock, are highly nutritious, and in critical periods when other feed is scarce, have definite value; the leaves are sometimes grazed sparingly, especially in the spring and as emergency forage. Mesquite also supplies fuel wood and post material where other wood is scarce. Lastly, on scantily grassed sandy soils the shrubs and trees perform an important service in holding the soil against wind and water erosion. But here the record of favorable qualities ends, and on most southwestern grassland these are greatly outweighed by the persistent tendency of mesquite to spread and take over an ever-wider hold on the range. This tendency is well illustrated by the contrast between the cover illustration of an all-too-firmly established stand and the view in figure 1 of the same area 38 years earlier.