Cultural Control of Leafy Spurge
(Euphorbia esula)

Sheep and Goats: Grazing with sheep and goats will provide an alternative to herbicides in controlling leafy spurge growth.  Grazing alone will not eradicate leafy spurge growth, it will however reduce the infestation, and allow grasses to be grazed by cattle and horses.  Sheep and goats are best suited to control leafy spurge infestations along waterways or in large areas.  Sheep should be grazed 3-6 head per acre.  (1)

Tilling (Plowing): Cultural control of leafy spurge includes properly timed cultivation and/or planting of competitive grass species.  A nonchemical control method such as cultivation is desirable to prevent the rapid establishment of leafy spurge in cropland, especially in limited tillage areas.  Two types of tillage programs are used for spurge control, intensive tillage through the growing season and cultivation only in the fall.  The intensive cultivation program should begin in the spring, two to 4 inches deep.  Cultivation should continue every three weeks until the soil freezes in the fall for one to two growing seasons.  The tillage schedule should not be interrupted because leafy spurge recovers quickly from the effects of cultivation.  Pieces of roots as small as 0.5 inch long and 0.1 inch diameter can produce new shoots.  Root pieces also will survive two or three hours of drying in the hot sun.   A second option is to cultivate when the plants are 3 to 6 inches tall post harvest. (2)
Hand Pulling: Hand pulling is only effective if the population consists of just a few plants. In addition, the milky latex in spurge can be irritating to the skin. (2)

Controlled Burning:
Controlled burning of leafy spurge has been experimented with in North Dakota and Wyoming.  Burning has little effect on established plants with deep root systems but it is effective in reducing seed and seedling viability.  Burning against the wind results in more complete combustion and hotter fires.  But, keep in mind that consuming the organic matter and exposing the soil surface may promote more weeds, especially if used repeatedly. (3)
Seeding/Reseeding: Some perennial grass species can effectively compete with leafy spurge and provide control.  The most competitive grasses include wheatgrass, wildrye, and smooth brome.  Leafy spurge top growth reduction averaged 70 to 80 percent in trials conducted at Fargo and Jamestown. (3)

Mowing every two to four weeks will reduce seed production and prevent new infestations to neighbors’ properties.  However, mowing will not provide little long-term control. (2)

1) North Dakota State University Integrated management of Leafy Spurge Page. Leafy Spurge-Euphorbia esula L. [Online]  Available February 24, 2006.

2) Larimer County Colorado Leafy Spurge Main Page.
Euphorbia esula L. [Online]  Available   February 24, 2006.

By: T. Woodbury, WHS Student, 3/2006.

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