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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Moisture benefits weeds

  • Snow helps benefit noxious weeds that have suffered from drought.
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  • Robert Torres was named new weed department supervisor and environmental services director following Dean Staab's recent retirement.
    By Gale Rose
    reporter@pratttribune.com
    An unwanted nuisance has been waiting patiently for a break in the drought that has plagued Kansas for over two years.
    The snow from last week and the snow that fell Monday is good news for farmers and crops but it's also beneficial for weeds including noxious weeds.
    The county hasn't had to spray as much for noxious weeds during the past couple of years because, just like crops, weeds need moisture to grow and produce seed, said Robert Torres, weed department supervisor.
    Chief among the noxious weeds is bindweed. This plant has a root system that can go down 30 feet so even in the worst of droughts it will be stressed but continue to grow and put out seed.
    Because it has a deep root system, bindweed is very hard to exterminate. It is a very aggressive species and if left unchecked it will spread out and take vital moisture for crop and grass growth and make cover that sheds other plants.
    Bindweed has a white or light pink flower has leaves that can be up to two inches long and either arrowhead of egg shaped. It is a vine plant and grows low to the ground.
    Other noxious weeds in the area haven't fared quite so well but Johnson grass, Musk Thistle and sericea lespedeza have all produced seeds that are just waiting for moisture.
    Weed seed is very rugged and will remain dormant for several years. Bindweed seed is especially tough and can be viable for 50 years.
    Because bindweed can use up so much moisture, it can reduce wheat yield by 30 percent and milo yield by 78 percent. The other noxious weeds also reduce crop production and are difficult to exterminate.
    Before it was known that bindweed was a noxious weed it was used as ground cover when the Pratt Army Air Field (now Pratt Regional Airport) was built. It was a low to the ground, fast growing and was a quick way to keep the fresh soil from blowing.
    The drought has slowed down noxious weed production. But with the recent moisture, farmers and land and property owners can expect to see an explosion of noxious weeds in the spring.
    The county is responsible for controlling noxious weeds on county property, along roads, the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake, the landfill and the Pratt County Fairgrounds, Torres said.
    If the county gets a report that a noxious weed problem exists and the landowner is not taking care of the problem, they county will give the landowner a warning to get the weeds under control.
    Page 2 of 2 - Usually farmers will comply with the warning. But if nothing is done, the county has the authority to spray the weeds, charge them for the procedure and if necessary they can put a lien on the property, Torres said.
    If the problem is on city property, the city is responsible. But someone in the city fails to control noxious weeds the county would intervene.
    Some people may not be aware they have a bindweed or other noxious weed problem so the county tries to educate the public and keep on top of the problem, Torres said.
    While bindweed might look like just a flowering weed, musk thistle is very obvious with a tall multi-stem growth topped with a purple or rose-colored flower with dark green leaves. It can produce up to 15,000 seeds and about half can reproduce.
    Johnson grass is a tall, perennial, aggressive grass that grows in clumps and blocks out sunlight for smaller plants with stems that can reach six feet tall. A single plant can produce 80,000 seeds and is very costly to farmers.
    Like bindweed, sericea lespedeza was also planted as a fast growing ground cover before people knew it was a noxious weed. It is also very drought hardy.
    It is about five feet tall and produces a purple flower that always turns yellow. Water, infested hay, birds, livestock and wildlife move the seeds. The seed travels though animal digestive tract.
    It was planted in the 1900's and in the 1930's as erosion control, wildlife habitat and as a forage crop.

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