Millions of dollars are spent each year by private landowners, individuals and hunting clubs to improve wildlife habitat. The majority of these expenses consist of simply planting food plots in the fall to provide a food source during winter months and to attract wildlife for hunting. Some land managers also plant summer crops and some go as far as having someone perform a prescribed burn for them to enhance their habitat. All of these practices are beneficial habitat enhancement practices, but many people overlook the benefits of controlling non-native invasive plants until it is too late to easily do so.
The first step to controlling non-native invasive plants is to know what invasive plants are common in your area and to learn how to identify them. Many publications helpful for plant identification are available. The best guide for the southeastern states is published by the U.S. Forest Service and is titled “Non-native Invasive Plants of Southern Forests: A Field Guide for Identification and Control” by J.H. Miller. This field guide has high resolution, color photos for easy identification and goes into great detail about control techniques.
Most landowners are familiar with kudzu and Chinaberry trees, but new non-native invasive species are being discovered each year. Other common non-native invasive plant species are Chinese privet, tallow tree, mimosa and autumn olive. Some of the more recent problematic species of importance are Japanese climbing fern, tropical soda apple and cogongrass. All of the aforementioned plants can have detrimental effects on the quality of wildlife habitat. Constant surveillance is a must for controlling non-native species. Most of these species can be found along roads and trails, fence rows, stream banks and right-of -ways. Species such as Chinese privet and autumn olive can be found throughout dense forest stands.
The problem with most non-native invasive plants is that they outcompete and eventually replace native plant species that are very important components of quality wildlife habitat. Early detection and treatment of these non-native plants will prevent them from becoming a widespread problem and reduce required control efforts and costs. The most effective way to control nonnative invasive species is with herbicide applications. Before using any herbicide, always read the label, which will provide information on application rates and application time period. You should strictly adhere to label recommendations for the best results when applying herbicides. For many invasive species the most effective application period is late summer to early fall and before frost kills the vegetation.
When choosing the type of herbicide to use, consult a professional because some herbicides can affect surrounding plants and trees. Herbicides such as Tordon, Escort and labels with the active ingredient imazapyr are soil active, which means they can move through the soil and kill other plants that take up the herbicide. Other herbicides are contact killers such as glyphosate and triclopyr, which means they kill only the plants on which they are sprayed. Someone trained and experienced in herbicide use can tell you which herbicide would be best for your situation.
Mowing, mulching and prescribed burning may help reduce the amount of vegetation to treat or simply make it easier to treat what is there. To keep from spreading invasive species, take precautions by cleaning all equipment used before leaving the infected site. Proactive and aggressive control of non-native invasive plant species ensures the best possible habitat for the wildlife on your property.
For more information on improving habitat to benefit wildlife, contact the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife Section. ADCNR promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.
Logo courtesy Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources