In times of drought, when some livestock producer looks across his or her pasture or rangeland and the only green plants he or she sees is brush, this tends to bring to light that these plants are robbing valuable soil moisture from those desirable forage plants that could be sustaining their livestock.

Managing undesirable plants like weeds and brush is a goal that all livestock producers should have, along with a plan to implement these actions.

Pestman, a new online application for weed and brush control, is a decision-support system that provides sound pest management options associated with weed and brush control, as well as costs associated with the options considered.

This tool allows managers to analyze the economic and environmental risks associated with controlling pests invading our rangelands and pastures. This Internet-based tool can be found at http://pestman.tamu.edu/#0.

The application is a collaborative effort of federal and state agencies, including U.S. Department of Agriculture-Risk Management Agency, NRCS, New Mexico State University, AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas A&M System, and private industry, including Grazingland Management Systems Inc., and AgForce consulting companies.

This tool will allow users to develop an economic analysis and see what the cost of a brush control treatment would be over a 10-year to 20-year period, as it provides the users with cost estimates of mechanical and weed and brush treatments. Costs of treatments are updated annually.

The user starts by selecting the pest plant, state of residence (currently only valid in Texas and New Mexico), and plant density. The Pestman program returns the best available treatments and their effectiveness along with cost per acre and application rates for chemical treatments. The user is then asked to select a treatment alternative.

I have used this tool and it is excellent as it provides a wealth of information.

New landowner series goes to the ranch

So you recently purchased your "Back 40" and have your property in the country. You're looking for ways to improve your property, while at the same time keep it in agricultural production. You just need some help to attain that goal.

An educational program to address those very needs related to pasture and brush management will be held May 20 at the La Copita Ranch from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The site is located south of Alice, off State Highway 281.

La Copita Demonstration Ranch encompasses 2,700 acres of rangeland in Jim Wells County. The La Copita Demonstration Ranch was a bequest in the will of Robert S. Muil of Alice. It was Mr. Muil's desire that La Copita be used for "agricultural experimentation, range management, brush control, wildlife management, range science and management and generally for the furtherance of the development of the farming and ranching interests and purposes."

In keeping with the mission of the ranch, this program will address topics that will include rangeland management and planning, introduced forages versus native landscapes (including grass varieties, establishment and fertility), soil and forage testing, risk management tools (to help in times like these, with drought), South Texas brush buster program and weed identification and control.

Two continuing education units will be provided to pesticide applicators.

The registration fee for this session is $20 per person, unless previously paid in the first session.

For more information, please contact the Nueces County Extension Office at (361) 767-5223.

This series is being sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service offices of Jim Wells, Nueces, Kleberg and San Patricio Counties.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at 767-5217.