Burning, mowing, native plants, restoration, weed control


Extensive areas in the upper Midwest have been invaded by spotted knapweed, and effective management strategies are required to reestablish native plant communities. We examined effects of mowing, mowing plus clopyralid, or mowing plus glyphosate in factorial combination with hand pulling and burning on knapweed abundances on a knapweed-infested site in western Michigan. We applied mowing and herbicide treatments in summer 2008, and seeded all plots with native grasses and forbs in spring 2009. We conducted the knapweed pulling treatment from 2009 to 2012 in July. The prescribed burn was conducted in April 2012. By 2012, hand pulling reduced adult knapweed densities to 0.57 ± 0.12 m-2 (0.053 ± 0.011 ft-2) (mean ± SE), which was 5.8% of nonpulled treatments, juvenile densities to 0.29 ± 0.07 m-2 (2.1% of nonpulled treatments), and seedling densities to 0.07 ± 0.06 m-2 (2.6% of nonpulled treatments). After 3 yr, hand pulling reduced seed bank densities to 68 ± 26 m-2 as compared to 524 ± 254 m-2 in nonpulled treatments and 369 ± 66 m-2 in adjacent untreated areas of the study site. Without hand pulling, effects of mowing or mowing plus glyphosate were short-lived and allowed knapweed to rapidly resurge. In comparison, although a single mowing plus clopyralid treatment maintained significantly reduced densities of knapweed for 4 yr, by 2012 knapweed biomass in the nonpulled clopyralid treatment was approximately 60% of that in the other nonpulled treatments. Burning had minimal impacts on knapweed densities regardless of treatment combination, probably as a result of low fire intensity. Results demonstrated that persistent hand pulling used as a follow-up to single mowing or mowing plus herbicide treatments can be an effective practice for treating isolated spotted knapweed infestations or for removing small numbers of knapweed that survive herbicide applications.