Vegetation response in field margins managed for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and potential negative impacts of bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon)
Burkhart, Jason Keith
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Declining northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) (bobwhite) populations in Georgia led to the establishment of the Bobwhite Quail Initiative (BQI), a state-funded incentive program aimed at increasing habitat for bobwhites in agricultural landscapes. One of the key management techniques was establishment of linear field margins around row-crop fields using winter disking. I surveyed these field margins for composition of subsequent vegetation and found that invasive and exotic grasses were pervasive. I tested two herbicides, Fusion® and Select 2EC®, to control bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) within constraints of the program. The single grass-specific herbicide application was ineffective at slowing bermudagrass encroachment. I also tested potential effects of bermudagrass on quail brood habitat and found that it acted as a heat trap by creating areas with temperatures above critical thresholds for bobwhite. The high density of bermudagrass patches was a mechanical barrier to bobwhite chick movement. Both of these findings lend support to anecdotal observations of the negative effects of bermudagrass on bobwhite brood habitat.