Mesquite Tree Control
- What is a mesquite tree & where do we find them?
Mesquite trees are common in the southwestern United States and areas that have low annual rainfall. They are part of the legume family of plants and are adaptive to dry environments. They can grow to as large as 20 feet in height with a one-foot diameter trunk, but most are smaller in height with multiple stems emerging from the ground. There are several varieties of mesquite, but the most common variety is the honey mesquite. They can grow in most types of soil except extremely wet or sandy soils.
- What makes the mesquite tree difficult to control?
Mesquite trees have a taproot that allows them to survive and thrive in dry environments. With this taproot, the mesquite tree is able to find enough moisture to survive through the droughts that are common in the southern US. The primary reason that mesquite is tough to control is its ability to re-sprout from the base of the stem at the taproot. Livestock, wildlife and birds use the beans from the mesquite as a food source and spread these seeds across our pastures and rangeland.
- Are there any cultural strategies that could be used to reduce proliferation of mesquite trees?
The best way to reduce the proliferation of mesquite trees is to develop a plan for your individual scenario and stick with it. Eliminating mesquite is not an easy task and will take time. Most of the time, it will take several years depending on the density and your budget. There a many options to eliminating mesquite trees and it often requires a combination of chemical and mechanical control to achieve your desired results.
- What are the most common means of control?
Mechanical control is probably the most utilized method for suppressing mesquites. Shredding mesquites as a means of control will provide a cosmetic solution for a few years but will not eliminate the tree. Once a mesquite is mowed/shredded, it will re-sprout from the original taproot with more stems than it had previously. Until you kill the root, this will be an ongoing cycle with mechanical control. There are a few means for mechanical control that are effective, but they all require root plowing to remove the taproot from the ground. Without complete removal of the taproot, expect regrowth from the surviving portion of the root system.
Chemical control seems to be the most effective way to eliminate mesquite trees. This too can be challenging given the physiology of the plant. Mesquite trees have a small leaf, and in many instances, very few of them. This can make it difficult to get enough herbicide into the plant with a foliar treatment. Ground temperature also plays a role in the effectiveness of herbicide treatments. It is best to do foliar treatments during the hottest times of the year (summer months), ideally when the soil is dry and warm. The perfect scenario is to treat when the soil is 75 degrees at 12 to 18 inches deep. A soil temperature probe can provide you with this information. Treating after the soils start to cool off in the fall can significantly reduce the effectiveness of a foliar treatment.
One chemical control method that can be used year-round is a basal stem treatment. This is the process of treating each stem from the ground up to 18 to 24 inches above the ground. This puts the herbicide directly into the cambial zone of the mesquite tree for it to be metabolized into the taproot. This is a slow but very effective means of control. It is important to treat as many stems as possible to maximize your time and to get the results you expect.
When it comes to controlling mesquite trees effectively, there are several factors that must be taken into consideration: budget, planning, execution, time and expectations. Helena is here to help with all these factors to accomplish your goals.