Clemson has had to say goodbye to what school leaders believe is their best defense against invasive plant species encroaching on campus.
For a third consecutive year, the university brought in a herd of 40 goats to graze on tangles of kudzu and other non-native plant species that have plagued the campus for years. The goats arrived on May 18 from Wells Farm in Horseshoe, N.C. and were held in two different locations on campus: one in 3.5 acres of fenced-off land along the seventh hole of Walker Golf Course and the other in a two-acre spot between Lee Hall and the Strom Thurmond Institute.
According to agriculture professor Calvin Sawyer, the goats cleared the two areas of approximately ten different invasive plants species.
“When you see an example of the area that we had, especially the area between Strom Thurmond and Lee Hall, it was so thick with vegetation that you couldn’t even see through it,” Sawyer said. “The fact that they got in there and took care of what they could possibly take care of within ten days is just remarkable.”
The goats left Monday, but will return to campus next spring. Sawyer said the next step in the project, which is formally titled “Evaluating Control Strategies for Effective Species Management – Prescribing Grazing with Goats,” is for undergraduate students to remove any remaining debris in the area. Sawyer said the goat-created openings will allow the student workers to use a combination of hand tools and herbicides to control existing and future growth. In the two previous years, Clemson relied mostly on volunteers to perform this work.
“We minimize the risk to the health and well-being of the human component, because they don’t have to go in there and crawl in there with all the thorns and underbrush and everything and the goats get something good to eat,” Sawyer said. “It’s a real sort of win situation for everybody.”
Within the browsing areas, Sawyer said almost every invasive plant species, including kudzu, Chinese privet, silverthorn, English ivy, nandina, liriope, Japanese stiltgrass and Japanese honeysuckle, were significantly reduced and thus easier to manage.