The occurrence of <i>Gutierrezia sarothrae</i> on <i>Bouteloua eriopoda</i> ranges in southern New Mexico

TitleThe occurrence of Gutierrezia sarothrae on Bouteloua eriopoda ranges in southern New Mexico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1934
AuthorsCampbell R.S., Bomberger E.H.
Date PublishedJanuary 1934
KeywordsBouteloua eriopoda, deterioration, Gutierrezia sarothrae, occurrence, overgrazing, plant succession
AbstractBouteloua eriopoda Torr. (black grama) is characteristic of the desert plains association described by Weaver and Clements ('29) and extends from southwestern Texas through southern New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. This grass, if not depleted, is the most abundant and valuable forage species on the well-drained sandy or gravelly soils of dry mesas in the region, especially in southern New Mexico. Jardine and Forsling ('22) have shown that continued overgrazing of Bouteloua eriopoda range leads to deterioration of the valuable grasses and the establishment of Gutierrezia spp. (snakeweed or broomweed) accompanied by reductions in grazing capacity and loss of soil stability. The ultimate result of continued injudicious grazing may be a transformation of the Bouteloua range to the Prosopis (mesquite) sand dune scrub association. Periodic drought is partly responsible for the deterioration because of the wide spacing of plants resulting from low rainfall and the facility with which the range is overgrazed when inadequate precipitation causes poor forage production. Many ranchmen believe that Gutierrezia will crowd out the valuable forage grasses on the range. This opinion results from failure to recognize over-utilization and ignoring the fact that on grass ranges, the unpalatable Gutierrezia plants are subject to little foliage removal by cattle, while the palatable grasses, when overutilized, sometimes are eaten to within half an inch of the soil surface. In order to determine the trend of Gutierrezia occurrence in the Bouteloua eriopoda association and to establish its significance in plant succession, a study of the problem was initiated. The work upon which this paper is based was done near Las Cruces, New Mexico, on the Jornada Experimental Range, a branch of the Southwestern Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.