Group Calls for Action on Knapweed in County

The Texas County Soil and Water Conservation District on Monday called on county and state leaders to take an aggressive stance toward the eradiation of the spotted knapweed, a noxious weed that it says threatens pasture land and has caused havoc in the western United States.

The district asked the Texas County Commission, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the Missouri General Assembly to make the public aware of the toxic weed that kills everything in its path. It also requested that the Soil and Water Districts Commission fund a special project from its soil and parks sales taxes to develop control measures and public education programs.

“Texas County is once again showing a leadership role in solving soil and water resource management problems,” said Loyd Clarkston, chairman of the Texas County Soil, Water and Conservation board of supervisors. “We want to encourage control actions be taken now before this weed causes a major economic loss to our livestock industry.”

An effort sponsored during the most legislative session to identify the weed as a noxious one failed. Rep. Don Wells, R-Cabool, introduced the measure.

The weed is commonly found along rights-of-way in Texas County. It can spread rapidly: A single plant averages about 1,000 seeds and is viable for up to seven years by germinating throughout the growing season. Seedlings emerge in the fall and develop a rosette of leaves that resumes growth in the spring. Chemical control is limited for mature plants due to the threat of water contamination. For the rosette stage in the fall, 24D seems to be the most effective and the cheapest chemical control available, the district said. Research is promising on results shown with biologic control, as the weed is susceptible to two insects – one attacks the seedpod and the other the plant root.

Small infestations may be pulled by hand, but the weed is so potent that it causes skin irritation so gloves must be worn. The group says the weed comes back from the root so it is important to pull it out – not just break it off at the ground.

In Texas County, a trial to determine the best method of eradication is under way east of Houston by the University of Missouri. Results aren’t to be finalized until another growing season is complete.

The county’s group interest in developing action against the plant comes after other states have seen a reduction in forage available for livestock. The seed is easily spread through highways, streams and railroads.

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