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Pilot Program Employs Goats to Manage Invasive Weeds

May 25, 2017, 12:16 PM HST · Updated May 28, 8:26 AM
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The Department of Transportation is embarking on a pilot program that will use a 50 head herd of goats to manage weeds on the shoulders of some state highways.

Maui Now graphic.

The program is being launched as an alternative to using herbicides for managing invasive weeds, including cane grass, Haole Koa and Sacramento Bur.

The program is being conducted with the Washington, DC-based organization Beyond Pesticides and Goat Green, a goat grazing company based in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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The Department of Transporation’s pilot program is a part of a larger series of training events conducted by Beyond Pesticides over the last two weeks, including training for Maui County Parks staff that will kick off a year long pesticide free park program at four county parks.

Program organizers say goat grazing has been shown to be an effective tool for weed management, re-seeding, and vegetation management.

“The use of goats increases organic matter in the soil, increases soil health, decreases erosion, and increases desired plant species diversity,” says Lani Malmberg of Goat Green. “Land restoration is the goal of goat grazing, bringing the land to life and healing the soil. The goat grazing project manages invasive weeds by eating target vegetation, releasing nutrients to soil, fertilizing, and aerating soil with their hooves.”

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“We are thrilled to be a part of this,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “With this project, the Department of Transportation is taking a forward thinking approach to weed management that respects Mother Nature,” Mr. Feldman said.

The pilot will take place at around Mile 4 and 5 of the Honoapiʻilani Highway until May 30th, and will be conducted with the support of Mike Atherton of the Tropical Plantation.

“We welcome Lani and the goats on our property while this pilot program is happening. The Tropical Plantation is the site of a lot of exciting sustainable initiatives like Pacific Biodiesel’s sunflower crops, Bobby Pāʻia’s taro and sweet potato farms and Kumu Organic Farms,” says Atherton. “Caring for our lands with goats instead of toxic chemicals fits right in to what we want to promote here.”

Department of Transportation will post signs informing drivers of the project. Drivers are asked not to honk, stop or park on the highway or roadside.

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