Prescribed burning and the herbicide clopyralid are very effective tools for the management of yellow starthistle. However, repeated use of either can be impractical or can present other problems. The potential solution is the development of an effective integrated weed management strategy using a combination of the two approaches. In small plot studies (0.2 ha), we tested one of five possible treatments: (1) untreated control, (2) 2 consecutive yr of clopyralid (0.105 kg ha−1), (3) 2 consecutive yr of prescribed summer burning, (4) first-year clopyralid followed by second-year prescribed burning, and (5) first-year prescribed burning followed by second-year clopyralid. Treatments were made in 1999 and 2000 at three study sites in California (San Benito, Yuba, and Siskiyou counties). In 2001, the year following the final treatment, 2 consecutive yr of clopyralid or first-year burning followed by second-year clopyralid consistently reduced yellow starthistle cover in the following year by 92 to 100%. However, at the Yuba site, clopyralid alone increased medusahead and ripgut brome cover. Although 2 consecutive yr of burning was effective in Yuba, very high levels of starthistle infestation in San Benito were not completely burned in the second year because of the lack of available consumable fuel. Clopyralid treatment the first year followed by prescribed burning in the second year stimulated yellow starthistle germination and did not reduce the infestation. In a large-scale study conducted at two sites (13 and 81 ha) in southern Monterey County, we used a first-year burn followed by either 2 yr of clopyralid (0.158 kg ha−1) or a single year of clopyralid (0.210 kg ha−1) and a subsequent burn. Results were in close agreement with those found in the small-scale studies. In the year following the final treatment, control of yellow starthistle was greater than 99% when the burn was followed by 2 yr of clopyralid. In contrast, when a prescribed burn was used in the last year of the program, the level of control was not as good, probably because of the increased germination of the remaining soil seedbank. These results indicate that a first-year prescribed burn followed by a second-year clopyralid treatment can provide consistently good control of yellow starthistle, as well as reduced levels of noxious annual grasses, including medusahead and ripgut brome.
Nomenclature: Medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski ELYCM; ripgut brome, Bromus diandrus Roth BRODI; yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis L. CENSO.