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Old 10/16/05, 08:16 AM
greenbean's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: New Mexico
Posts: 65
how to clear mesquite bushes?

Just bought farmland that has been unworked for a few years. They were growing alfalfa, cotton etc. Mesquite bushes have sprouted up everywhere, average about 6 feet high. Boy are they tough! What is the best way to clear these out? I am starting from scratch, so I want to buy the right equipment.
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Old 10/16/05, 08:20 AM
Alice In TX/MO's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Texas Coastal Bend/S. Missouri
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Cut by hand or chain saw, burn the cuttings. Spray sprouts with herbicide designed for mesquite. Keep vigilant.
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Old 10/16/05, 09:10 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Far West in the White Mountains, Arizona
Posts: 2,644
Kinda depends upon what you want to use the land for if stumps will be a problem or not. Here and New Mexico they mostly use a Cat and just push the tree over exposing the roots. A few months later you can burn or cut into firewood.
Mess with me? I may let karma take care of it. Mess with my family? I become Karma.
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Old 10/16/05, 10:37 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Jones Co, Texas
Posts: 676
Well, I guess it depends on how you feel about chemicals. I've seen various brands/companies such as "Brush Busters" put signs on the side of the road stating "watch these mesquites" and they did seem to die quickly, but I do not have any hands on knowledge of that.

I would use a dozer, with a six way blade. It is easy and fairly cheap to rent, though a trackhoe with a grubber would be great too, though cost more. The mesquite sends out long, long roots to the sides, about a foot under the ground, but also has a deep, deep tap root. How deep? Well, using the method I'm about to describe I pulled up a 6ft tall brushy mesquite and that center root was about 25ft long! They suck up alot of water, and are hard to remove completely in most cases.

With a dozer with a six way blade, angle your blade all the way to one side, then tilt that corner down. Now, approach the offending tree in whatever gear you feel comfortable with the corner of your blade a few inches above the ground. When I'm on a roll and the trees are pretty small I usually use 2nd or 3rd. Just before you hit the tree with the corner of your blade, dip it into the dirt, then quickly pull the blade back up. Once you get the hang of it (and this is assuming your dozer has fast, or at least decent hydros too) you will 'pop' the tree out of the ground, roots and all! The trick is not to raise your blade too much after you contact the tree, so that you can keep your bite on it and drag all (or as much as possible) of the roots out.

If you get good at this method you'll have tiny holes where you dug down, which usually get filled back in when you pile the brush, or if you plow. This method also allows you to get all or almost all of the tree out of the ground, without a grubber, which it seems most rental yards in my part of the country do not have available for rent. Actually, I like this method better than using a grubber, since there is less soil disturbed if you are doing it right; though I miss having a good brush rake.

If you have lots and lots and lots of little brushy trees this method gets tedious, but is do-able. I was hired to clear 500 acres of creek this way a couple years of ago, and some of the thicker stands of the pencil sized trees would make you dispair, but all it takes is a bit of time and a method so that you do not run over the trees before you pop them out.

A D4 sized dozer will be fine if they are still in the brushy stage, and under about 10 ft tall, though every now and agan you hit one that that is really well rooted that you'll have to dig deeper for. Any bigger than that, and a D5 is better, IMHO. For the sake of dozer, remember to pop them out with the corner of the blade that is angled closest to you, The other corner actually is eaiser to use, and saves time, but after a week of hard grubbing with the extended corner your likely to find metal shavings in the hyd oil, and a worn cylinder on that side too. Using the corner closest to you (in other words, pushing with the cylinder that is compressed , not extended is eaiser on the dozer, though not on the operator.) Of course if this is a rental machine, and you have no qualms about tearing up a company's machine, I guess you could use the other corner. Many big dirt work companies rent equipment when they're working hard stuff like rock exactly for that reason, to not tear up their own equipment...


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Old 10/16/05, 11:25 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,504
Mesquite does not like acid soil. Cut them down, and "water" them with distilled vinegar. Of course, this will take a LOT of vinegar, and it will need to be reapplied a few times. This may make it impractical for you, but to get rid of one or two in the yard it works great.
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Old 10/16/05, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Middle of nowhere along the Rim, Arizona
Posts: 3,158
Goats, if you've got time. (Note: mesquite beans will colic a horse if you have a horse that discovers they're tasty. They're not poisonous, but if the horse eats fifty pounds of the things, it's like grain overload.)

Quicker solution is to use a cat as others have suggested, scrape the soil, then spray any new volunteers with an herbicide of your choice on a regular basis. Mesquite will come back from the roots to some extent, but that's mostly in older stands, and it sounds like you've got fairly young growth.

Or if they're only about six feet tall -- get a shovel, some pots, dig the volunteers up, pot them, and sell them for a few bucks each as landscaping plants. Mesquite transplants pretty well.

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Old 10/16/05, 12:25 PM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 67
I don't know if this is the same stuff or if this will help your problem at all. But I'd start by building a smoke house , buy a few pigs and save your mesquite for some tasty fresh smoked pork.
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Old 10/16/05, 02:28 PM
Laura Workman's Avatar
(formerly Laura Jensen)
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Lynnwood, Washington
Posts: 2,475
We're talking about regular mesquite here, right? The kind people pay an arm and a leg for to get a little bag of chips for smoking? The really contorted trees that parrot people LOVE for perches and pay big bucks for? The burled stuff woodworkers LOVE to carve? The plant with beans that make great candy? Did someone suggest burning? That seems like a crime. I sure wish it would grow around here! Might I suggest eBay? Maybe you could rent a chipper/shredder and make a bundle.
The basic message of liberalism is simply: The true measure of a society is how it treats the weak and the needy. A simple Christian message (Matthew 25:40). -Garrison Keillor
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Old 10/16/05, 05:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Texas
Posts: 186
Originally Posted by greenbean
Just bought farmland that has been unworked for a few years. They were growing alfalfa, cotton etc. Mesquite bushes have sprouted up everywhere, average about 6 feet high. Boy are they tough! What is the best way to clear these out? I am starting from scratch, so I want to buy the right equipment.
Bean, I am an Arboriculturist (as my Grandfather characterized my profession: an over educated tree chopper). <G>

Use of heavy equipment to remove Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora var glandulosa) can be cost prohibitive if one considers the survival characteristics of Mesquite. Five year studies on heavy equipment useage are not too impressive, unless a concurrent program of herbicide application is instituted. Unfortunately, once you disturb/eradicate the plant superstructure, you are going to be restricted to applications of herbicide to the SOIL. This type of herbicide is almost totally ineffective against remaining remnants of the tap root, for which the Mesquite is famous. Soil applications of herbicides also open some liability windows concerning the water table.

Alternatively, I would strongly suggest that you apply a glyphosate (RoundUp, Finale, or generic glyphosate) to the foliage of actively growing Mesquite. This material breaks down into components already present in the soil when it contacts the soil. Allow some weeks for the hormonal 'grow yourself to death' signals to be completed, then remove the trees. In the case of the glyphosates, one can graze the area with livestock within a few weeks. That is NOT the case with the use of certain soil applied herbicides, none of which can penetrate effectively to depths of 20-30 feet to get the remnants of tap roots which were not removed by heavy equipment. Heavy equipment also often requires regrading to allow normal crop planting and cultivation.

Removal of the smaller specimens, after death, can often be accomplished with a medium sized tractor with a 3-point Crow's Foot. Or one can use a backhoe to rip out the smaller specimens without leaving the cultivated plane of fields too disrupted for future cultivation. Finally, a towed, self-propelled, or tractor mounted PTO stump grinder can grind root systems out to the depth of normal cultivation requirements.

Mesquite does have a market value. However, one must have an adequate marketing volume and distribution system to make it profitable.

Some years ago, I learned a LOT about Mesquite from Dr. Nancy Ewalt (Texas Tech University) in my capacity as Program Director for the Texas International Society of Arboriculture. She was instrumental in providing the framework for the utilization of various cultivars of Mesquite for shade trees in arid areas, along with the development of commercial marketing (wood chips/smoking wood) existing Mesquite populations in Texas. Therefore my basic advice is to KNOW your Mesquite quite well before you attempt to subjugate it. <G>
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