Weed Control, and such…

Sometimes our perspective is just wrong. We talk about weed control, when what we might be better off considering would be pasture improvement. There are an infinite number of possibilities we might want to get to – combinations of species, phenologies; mixes of annuals and perennials; legumes, grasses and forbs; heights and interspersement with woody plants – but only a very few that we might want to get away from: weed-choked, and bare ground, are usually the main two. So when we focus on getting away from where we are (usually, a mix of weed-choked and bare ground, often with a compaction factor and sometimes toxicity), we forget to pay attention to any of the range of possibilities that we might aim, even broadly, towards. Like, we can aim towards a constellation of possibilities — some range of legumes, grasses, and forbs; or some roughly defined combination of natives and productive annuals; or a purely native stand beneath a pattern of planted trees, savanna-style. Who knows; you can use your holistic context to determine that, or create a loosey-goosey vision out of articles you’ve read or a localization of what Gabe Brown uses; but at least, you’re headed in the right direction. If you’re just heading away from that weed-choked bare ground, you’ll have no idea where you’re going because you’re looking at where you are, and then, walking backwards to get away from it.

Of course there’s all kinds of detail missing here about understanding succession, and how those choking weeds are the critical first step past bare ground. Ergo, you shouldn’t want to go from weed-choked to bare ground, because you’re going backwards in the succession cycle. You instead want to figure out what comes next: what can you get to grow, take hold, and thrive, in the spaces between the weeds? (There will be some, I promise). Can you get an animal in there that will clip off the weeds’ flowery heads before they go to seed, and divert attention from the young things coming up underneath them? That will convert that flowery, pre-seedy biomass into fertilizer for whatever seeds and sprouts lay dormant in the soil, just waiting for a chance to breathe?

And there are toxic weeds, yes, I know, and those are also often perfectly safe when livestock have something else to chew on; and might even provide some potent, vital phytochemicals that they might look to when they’re deficient in a particular nutrient, or need to knock out a parasite they picked up, or – well, who knows. (Provenza might).

But the secret to moving forward isn’t to be moving away from something you don’t like – it’s to be moving towards a constellation of things, no matter how nebulously defined, that you know you do. So when they tell you to visualize your goal – see it, smell it, hear it, feel it – it’s okay if there are little gaps; or if the vision varies a little from day to day. What matters is if, generally, it’s the right direction when you set out; that you know progress when you see it; and that it gets clearer, your knowledge grows, and that you get more excited about it the closer you get.

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