Public Enemy No. 1

By Geoff Lee

June 8, 2017 12:00 AM

HE LOVES YOU, NO, NO, NO The photo shows a technician sweeping for a beetle count as the weed control beetles is this area don't die in the winter. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For Saskatchewan farmers, invasive plants, not native to the province are a perennial enemy of production.
A North Saskatchewan River group is holding a weed identification field day on June 13 in Marsden to help farmers learn what to attack to win the weed war.
“We’re going to look at some leafy spurge, some common tansy, toadflax and we’re hoping to find some absinthe as well, so we can look and identify those weeds and talk about how to control and manage them,” said Annette Smith, an Agra-Environmental Group Plan (AEGP) Technician.
Smith who works in North Battleford said the main culprit around the Lloydminster area would probably be scentless chamomile or mayweed as it’s commonly called.
It’s a daisy like flower with a fern leaf.
It spreads quickly along roadsides and fence lines and reduces yields in hay fields, pastures and cropland.
“In hay fields, it can be really noticeable,” said Smith.
“It’s relatively easy to pick; most people pick it, bag it and burn it and there are a few chemicals that you can use to spray it.
“It’s always kind of a nuisance weed to have around.”
Smith noted there are some biological controls for invasive weeds that are usually used in areas where it is hard to get to spray or near water or bush.
She said there is a weevil that is effective for controlling scentless chamomile in the Lloydminster area.
“It gets into the seed head and deforms it so that it wont produce seed,” she said.
Another potential invasive weed for farmers in the Lloydminster area to be wary of is leafy spurge.
“I am not sure if there’s much of it around the Lloydminster area, but I’m sure it’s coming,” said Smith.
She noted it’s a big problem around the Battlefords and in the RMs of North Battleford, Meota, and Manitou, Senlac and other areas.
“It can reduce production on pastures up to 60 to 80 per cent,” she said.
The plant reproduces by seed and from its creeping root system that can extend about nine metres deep.
“We want to keep the awareness up and keep it out of the rural municipalities that don’t have it,,” she said.
“You can get sheep and goats to eat it, so we’ve done some projects with fencing with sheep and goats.”
Yellow toadlflax and absinthe are two other weeds that area farmers need to recognize as they threaten to become problem species.
Toadlflax can take over a pasture as well notes Smith.
Funding is available through rural municipalities to private landowners and other stakeholders to help off-set the cost of chemical controls for specific invasive plants like leafy spurge, common tansy,  yellow toadflax and other noxious weeds.
“It’s a program through Growing Forward 2 and covers 100 per cent of the chemical cost for RMs if it’s on public land,” said Smith.
Growing Forward 2 is suite of federal-provincially funded agricultural programs including the invasive plant control program administered at the RM level.
On private land, an individual producer can get 50 per cent of chemical cost covered, but they have to go through the RMs.
“They have to do a weed management plan and a weed inspection in order to get funding,” said Smith.
She said this helps RMs map where specific invasive plants are and identify how many acres are affected.
“It kind of sets out of a plan of attack,” said Smith.
The chemical that is used to kill leafy spurge and other invasive weeds is Tordon 22K which is a Dow Agro product. Smith said it very expensive and has a high residue left in soil and can’t be used near water or shallow ground water.
“The other products are Navius or Truvist from Bayer, they are a little easier on the environment but still costly and because there isn’t the high residue it’s doesn’t have the effect the following years after spraying.
It’s Smith’s job to help producers get funding for herbicides through the Growing Forward 2.
“There’s all sorts of things you can get funding for,” she said
AEGP technicians help producers tap into the Farm Stewardship and Farm and Water Ranch Infrastructure environmental programs.
“I also help out with the invasive plant control program; we help the RMs with their management plans and stuff like that,” she said.
Smith said there is no end in sight for the need to control invasive weeds. 
“We’ve seen a increase in leafy spurge when it’s wet like this,” she said.
“The last two years it’s really sprouted out there; we’ve seen an increase in a lot of them.”

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