Curbing noxious weeds
Weeds are thieves, not only in the night, but also in the day.
They steal the land’s productivity and diversity, forage for wild and domestic animals, and even the soil itself, say experts from the Montana Weed Control Association.
In fact, researchers estimate that spotted knapweed alone cost Montanans $42 million last year.
So two women with divergent production techniques work diligently to reach a common goal: control noxious weeds on their land.
• Noxious weeds steel plant diversity and the soil, costing millions to control.
• An integrated weed management strategy, using various control tools, works best.
• Diligence is the most important component of control
Sara Taliaferro works with her husband, Mark, and their daughter and son-in-law, Adele and Kip Stenson, of Dupuyer, Mont., to control leafy spurge and thistles, among other weeds, on their 4,000-acre cattle ranch.
“I don’t have much to say. I just spray,” Sara says.
Lately, she has directed her spray more effectively. Kip now uses a GPS unit to record where the weeds grow.
“The big thing is to remember where you found them last year,” Sara says when she and Mark load a spray rig into the back of their Ford Ranger.
Jan Boyle and her husband, Rich, concentrate on white top and spotted knapweed at their certified organic 120-acre Golden Willow Botanicals.
Jan, of Simms, Mont., surveys her pastures as she jogs and walks her dogs. Then the mower revs up.
“The white top will grow again from its roots, but it’s not spreading,” Jan says. “I think it uses so much energy to re-grow that it doesn’t spread.”
As an organic producer, Jan is not allowed to use herbicides on her weeds, so she makes a concerted effort to mow them as they flower.
“We can’t eradicate the knapweed because the irrigation ditch conveys the seeds. Our goal is control,” she says.
Both women notice a marked improvement in production on their land. Both attribute that increased production to their diligent weed control efforts, even though they use different tools to achieve that control.
“And besides, we’re supposed to be stewards of the land,” says Sara.
This article published in the January, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.