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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Control Unwanted Juniper Trees

LAS CRUCES -- To many New Mexicans, juniper trees are attractive and desirable plants. They are used for windbreaks and fire wood and provide protective cover for wildlife and livestock.

However, on thousands of acres of New Mexico rangeland, junipers are so numerous that they crowd out other types of vegetation and can hinder ranching operations, said a New Mexico State University range brush control specialist.

"Junipers occupy approximately 23 million acres in 32 New Mexico counties," said Keith Duncan, with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. The five juniper species most common in New Mexico are one-seed, Utah, Rocky Mountain, alligator and redberry juniper.

Although light to moderate growth of junipers can be desirable, dense growth can crowd out other vegetation,create fire hazards, cause livestock handling problems and destroy fences, Duncan said. Thick juniper stands also can be a problem on roadways and near livestock watering areas.

Research and demonstration plots at NMSU have shown that junipers can be controlled effectively by individual plant treatments. "By selectively controlling unwanted plants, land managers can remove specific trees while others are left untouched," Duncan said. Trees can be removed from fence lines, roadways and watering areas without affecting more desirable plants nearby such as pinon or algerita.

To treat individual plants, Duncan recommends applying an appropriate liquid herbicide to the soil surface even with the ends of the tree's branches with a spot gun or drench gun. Rainwater will move the herbicide into the soil to the tree's roots. "Trees less than 9 feet tall are the easiest and most economical to control with this method," Duncan said.

For more information on individual plant treatments and selecting herbicides, contact your local county Extension office.