Biological Weed Control: Education and Implementation
The objective is to increase the agricultural community’s understanding and use of biological weed control as a sustainable weed-control tactic. It will be accomplished through the development and implementation of a biological weed control education and awareness program.
Project coordinator Noah Poritz, who has been growing and marketing a variety of insects used in the biological control of noxious weeds, plans to publish illustrated information sheets on the practice of biological weed control and the insects that attack specific target weeds. The fact sheets will be distributed to herbicide applicators and chemical dealers in Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Montana.
Chemical applicators and dealers are typically well trained in the sale and use of herbicides, but as bio-control measures grow in popularity, they might be well served to provide alternatives to herbicides or to integrate both herbicides and biological controls. Education and an economic incentive, reasons Poritz, will enthuse applicators and dealers about the use of using insects to control weeds.
Also, given that ranchers are end users of weed-feeding insects, Poritz plans to educate them through articles and advertising aimed at the ranching community, focusing on an overview of biological control and the benefits of using insects to attack specific weeds.
Poritz will also conduct field days in Park County, Mont., with the help of county agent Marty Malone, to address the biological control of leafy spurge, Canada thistle, musk thistle and spotted knapweed, which have invaded the county. The field day will provide information on insect life history, site selection for bio-control agent release, monitoring for insect establishment and integrating bio-control with herbicides. Participants will study and work with live biological control agents and be given some for release in their areas.
The anticipated results of this project include these:
1. Increase the project coordinator’s farm income by expanding insect sales
2. Increase rancher awareness of biological weed control
3. Increase the number of ranchers using this least-toxic control tactic
4. Reduce rancher reliance on herbicides
5. Encourage ranchers to try raising insects to increase their income
6. Increase the number of chemical control practitioners familiar with bio-control
7. Provide an economic incentive for applicators and dealers who successfully promote bio-control
8. Provide field day participants with both experience and insects
Should he succeed in raising awareness and use of weed-eating insects, Poritz anticipates the need to hire additional farm employees to satisfy insect demand, bolstering the rural economy.
Poritz says that after one field season, the project has contributed to the agricultural community’s awareness and use of biological weed as a sustainable weed-control tactic.
The result was achieved through articles written and distributed to hundreds of newspapers in the four target states. Some of the articles were general in nature, covering the practice of biological weed control. Others were specific, targeting specific weeds and the insects used to control them. Owing to its success, the effort will be repeated during the 2003 field season.
Meanwhile, says Poritz, response from chemical dealers and applicators has been disappointing. In the four-state project area, hundreds were contacted and provided with educational materials on biological controls, along with economic incentives for recommending their use. As of this report, only two applicators followed up with questions.
“The lack of interest on the part of the chemical control community to alternatives to herbicides illustrates a reluctance to try new control tactics,” says Poritz. Undaunted, he will try again during the winter of 2003.
In contrast, the field day in Park County, Montana, was a success with nearly 40 ranchers and farmers attending. All participants received fact sheets on biological weed control as well as 200 to 300 biological control agents of spotted knapweed, free of charge, for use on their own weed infestations. The field day is scheduled to be repeated in July 2003.
BENEFITS FOR AGRICULTURE
Ranchers who understand and utilize biological weed control measures reduce their agriculture expenses and their use of and reliance on herbicides. Scientific publications provide examples of the economic and environmental benefits of using these agents, and this project has contributed many of those same benefits for both producers and their communities.
The producers attending the field day began practicing their own biological control when they released the flower-attacking weevils on their own infestations.
REACTIONS FROM PRODUCERS
Poritz says he has received positive responses from producers, newspaper editors and agricultural professionals, evidence his efforts are being well received.
RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
It’s too early in the project to make any recommendations.
In addition to the outreach described above, Poritz has developed a trade show exhibit that presents information on biological weed control. The exhibit was scheduled to be used during winter and spring 2003 weed control conferences in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Colorado.
Among the headlines on the news articles were these:
Thousand-year-old Weed Control Solution Revealed
Canada Thistle: Our Worst Weed?
Good Bugs vs. Bad Weeds: Weevils Battle Knapweed
Knapweed’s Worst Nightmare
Extension Noxious Weed Specialist
Montana State University
Leon Johnson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069945686
Park County Extension Agent
414 E. Callendar
Livingston, MT 59047
Office Phone: 4062224156