Arkansas Valley: Wetter conditions = fewer tumbleweeds

Below is a video from 2013 when they were plowing tumbleweeds in Crowley County:

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It rained so much in 2015, that you would expect another stampede of tumbleweeds by this time.

But that hasn’t happened.

There’s not a whole lot of rolling and tumbling going on.
“We’ve seen less, but we’ve had a lot in the pastures,” said Gary Walker, whose 63,000acre ranches border Fort Carson in northern Pueblo County. “My biggest problems are from Fort Carson and the prairie dog towns.”

Walker thinks a combination of more moisture, the timing of the rains and grazing contributed to a decline in the Russian thistle, the primary tumbleweed culprit.

Typically, the plants can grow up to 5 or 6 feet before breaking off and blowing in the wind. During the drought of 2011-13, they clogged ditches, skirted up against fences and blew into piles across most of Southeastern Colorado. In some areas, there were stacks up to the eaves of houses.
But there has been a lull this year.

“We’ve seen some, but with the winds we’ve had in recent weeks haven’t created the big piles we were seeing,” said Bruce Fickenscher, rangeland specialist for Colorado State University Extension. “In Crowley County, we mowed them and grazed them more. There have been some places where the weeds blow in, but they’re staying put, more than in the past few years.”

Walker said the plants grew with deeper roots, and also credits more cattle with cropping them closer to the ground earlier.

“In the past, when we were moving more cattle, there were fewer tumbleweeds,” Walker said. “When we get back to a more normal deal, we’ll be able to graze more cattle.”

But the natural conditions also play a role.

“By and large, it’s because of the way the rains came and the size of them,” Fickenscher said. “The weeds provided some protection for the native plants underneath. With Russian thistle and kochia, the taproot is deep and brings nutrients up.”

As long as the moisture continues, the tumbleweeds might not be as big a problem.

“We’re sitting better this year than we have been in a while,” Fickenscher said. “After a couple years of rain, we have more moisture in the subsoil.”

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