Fire vs. herbicide? The economics of herbicides and prescribed fire are compared in managing mesquite
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On southwestern U.S. rangelands, mesquite reduces forage production and interferes with livestock foraging and management. This represents a major threat to the economics of livestock production and possibly to watershed quality and yield. The income from the non-treated land versus income from treated land, less the cost of brush treatment and follow-up maintenance, determines the economics of brush control. We conducted an economic comparison of treating mesquite with prescribed burning at an interval of 5-7 years or aerial spraying with a root-killing herbicide that has a treatment life of 15-20 years. Our analyses apply to ranches that are 4,000 to 50,000 acres in size with mesquite that needs a "brush reduction" treatment. These comparisons are simulations based on productivity estimates for clay-loam soils in north Texas. The costs and benefits of carrying out particular management actions are compared with the value in lost forage productivity due to not treating the brush. Net present values and benefit-cost ratios are decision aids for selecting which treatment will be the best investment.