Idaho officials: You can help stop noxious weeds

Addressing the problem requires personal responsibility along with chemicals, biological agents and preventive planting, officials say.

(TWIN FALLS) TIMES-NEWSJuly 5, 2014 

  • REDUCE THE SPREAD OF WEEDS

    When entering and leaving lakes, rivers, state parks and other recreational areas:

    • Brush off clothes and shoes.

    • Clean any equipment, including fishing poles, bikes and camping gear.

    • Clean animals. Brush dogs and horses to dislodge any clinging weeds or weed seeds.

    • Wash your vehicle before and after a trip to the great outdoors.

    • Leave plants where you find them. Don't pick wildflowers. They might be pretty, but plucking them is illegal.

    Source: Idaho Fish and Game, Twin Falls County Weed Control Department

Noxious weeds threaten wildlife habitat, agriculture, waterways and recreational sites every summer in Idaho.

Weed control should be a priority for landowners, says Reid Smith, weed superintendent for Minidoka County. They can get free site inspections, weed management plans and information on herbicides and identifying weeds from county weed superintendents.

Cooperation among counties is also critical, said Kali Sherrill, weed superintendent in Twin Falls County.

"Weeds know no boundaries," Sherrill said. "We need to work together."

She said her department works closely with other counties, state and federal agencies, landowners and the public.

"We try to teach landowners how to control weeds," she said. "We have CWMAs (Cooperative Weed Management Areas) where we go in and work with landowners to identify and then control weed infestations."

Idaho has more than 30 CWMAs, the State Department of Agriculture reports.

Identifying the enemy is half the battle. State officials have three response categories for Idaho's 65 worst weeds: Early detection and rapid response, control and containment.

The first category is for new weeds that haven't posed a major threat. Control and containment are for troublesome weed infestations.

The most common weed control method in the agriculture-rich Magic Valley is chemicals. That's what government agencies, irrigation districts and most farmers prefer.

Certain chemical solutions also are needed to kill moss buildups in canals and ditches, lest the moss cling to irrigation headgates and obstruct farmers' water, said Roger Wageman of the Burley Irrigation District.

Other ways to kill weeds include mechanical and biological controls.

The mechanical method simply means digging out weeds, whether with a shovel or heavy equipment.

But bio-control is one of the most effective means for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said Mark Fleming, regional wildlife habitat manager.

"We take noxious weed control very seriously," Fleming said. "We use herbicides to chemically control weeds, but in some cases spraying is not effective."

Insect swarms are used to eradicate the noxious purple loosestrife, a non-native aquatic weed destroying wildlife habitat, primarily in wetlands near lakes and rivers.

The insects burrow into the purple loosestrife's roots and hibernate for the winter. Once the bugs hatch, they eat the weed, moving from one infestation to the next and eradicating the plants. Then, with no food left, the insects die off.

This kind of bio-control is especially effective because it doesn't rely on harsh chemicals. But bio-control is slower. Years of research are required before an insect is approved for use. Officials must first ensure that it won't target other plant species.

Sherrill said Twin Falls County currently monitors 34 bio-control sites.

Weed control and eradication requires constant vigilance. Weed seeds can get embedded in almost anything and spread to other areas. To minimize weed transfer, people should clean off clothing, shoes, animals and vehicles when leaving the outdoors, Fleming said.

And horses should be kept from eating plants and weeds because seeds can transfer through fecal matter once the animal returns home.

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