How to Take Care of Pricklypear and Other Cacti

Pricklypear and other species of cacti may interfere with movement and handling of livestock and with forage utilization, cause serious livestock health problems, and compete with desirable forage plants. These plants are extremely tolerant of drought and harsh conditions and are protected from grazing animals to some extent by their spines. Pricklypear and other species of cacti thrive across the western half of Texas both in rural pastures and urban lots. They have the ability to grow and to increase in abundance very rapidly.

Here are two methods to control pricklypear and other cacti that are easy, inexpensive, environmentally responsible, and effective. One Brush Busters method involves spraying a small but potent concentration of herbicide directly on the pads or stems of individual plants. By following the simple three-step directions you’ll be able to selectively control the pricklypear and other cacti without damaging your desirable trees, shrubs, forbs or grasses. The second method uses no herbicide, and controls the plant by simple top removal.

Remember that controlling pricklypear and cacti is not a one-time job. There are many viable seeds in the soil that may germinate in the future. Livestock and wildlife also spread the seeds and scatter the pads and joints over wide areas, so you’ll need to go over your land occasionally to get rid of unwanted seedlings.

Also, remember that pricklypear may have value as a livestock feed during drought and as food and cover for wildlife, such as quail, deer, and javelina. Keep these points in mind when deciding whether to control your pricklypear, how much you should kill, and where to target your control efforts. The Brush Busters methods are selective, they allow you to get rid of the pricklypear you don’t want, and keep those you wish to keep.

Professionals with the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Service, both agencies of the Texas A&M University System, have developed and approved these Brush Busters methods of pricklypear and cacti control. Your results may vary with weather and other conditions, but you should be able to knock out more than 7 of 10 of the pricklypear or cacti treated.

The Brush Busters methods are best suited for controlling relatively low densities of these spiny pests. Aerial broadcast herbicide applications, prescribed fire, or a combination of these two conventional control methods may be better suited for heavy infestations in areas where these methods are practical. The Brush Busters methods are ideally suited as follow-up treatments a few years after the conventional control methods have been used.