Participating farmers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) collaborated to find ways to contol the noxious weed, Canada thistle. NRCS facilitated workshops and tours, helped with the grant writing, certified the practices, and assisted with technical information. The land users learned and shared information.
The following is an excerpt from an abstract submitted by Anita Nein, Resource Conservationist, NRCS, for the 2005 Soil and Water Conservation Service Annual Conference.
Deuel County Gone “Buggy”
(Deuel County Lodgepole Creek Integrated Pest Management Project)
Expanding acres of the noxious weed Canada thistle, has caused 12 Deuel County Nebraska land users to unite and try several (6) methods of preventing further degradation of the land for wildlife, domestic animals, and people. Eleven completed.
First they studied the life cycles of the noxious weeds and the insects used for control. Then, they monitored the thistles and took action.
Working together, landowners reduced costs for securing biological enemies of the thistles by designating shipping points, bidding three different kinds of insects from suppliers, and dispursing 13,000 insects locally. The insects placed in 2003 and 2004 have damaged 10%-40% of the thistles around most insect sites where two or three kinds of insects were placed. On five different land owners, the insects eliminated patches of approximately 0.01 of an acre.
An experimental vinegar herbicide was sprayed on 10 acres resulting in immediate, but not long lasting thistle damage. Application of molasses to young thistles was tried to see if cattle would eat them better. Cattle ate the thistles equally well as long as the plants were small. Land owners killed more thistles when they sprayed 600 acres with commercial chemicals just after the first freeze when the plant is pulling carbohydrate reserve down into the roots.
Six different grass seeding orders were drilled on three farms in 2004 to provide grass competition at the targeted weed. About 10 acres of alfalfa was seeded on pasture land. About 160 acres were mowed to decrease the weed’s ability to make and store carbohydrates and to decrease the seeds produced.
Grazing also decreased growth of the Canada thistles on more than 1,000 acres. Two miles of fencing along the creek was done. Short duration, high intensity, rotational and season long grazing plans were tried and accomplished to limit thistle growth. Goats, llamas, buffaloes, sheep, and cattle were tried.
2003, 2004, and early 2005 were the 2.5 years this weed war was sponsored with a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant. The practices will be applied by spring 2005. Participating agencies are Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service, South Platte Natural Resources District, Farm Service Agency, Deuel County Weed Authority, and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.