What is in this article?:
• Cogongrass has been called “the weed from hell” and “the mother of all invasive species.”
• It is so aggressive, if left unchecked it can replace an entire ecosystem.
• Mississippi has just finished the first year of spraying in a $1.1 million suppression program, while Alabama has a $6 million-plus eradication program in progress.
Need to be aggressive
“But landowners, land managers, utility rights-of-way managers, and others need to start being very aggressive with cogongrass, and work on it week-to-week, year-to-year. A one-time application won’t do it — we’re going to have to be very vigilant.”
Hancock says the state is continuing to take applications for participation in the cogongrass spraying program.
“We have over 600 applications at this point, and thus far we’ve sprayed for 300 to 400 people.
“If someone requests assistance, we’ll come out and walk over the property with a GPS unit, then overlay locations of cogongrass on an aerial map. Our contractor can then use the GPS coordinates to go right to the infestations. We’ll be mapping all winter and expect to start spraying again about May 1.”
There is no cost to landowners, he notes. They need only to sign a contract and release. If they have cows on the land, they have to either take them off prior to treatment, or if they leave them on the land they must agree not to take them to market for at least 30 days following treatment.
“This can be an effective program if everyone works together,” Hancock says. “But it’s not something to be complacent about — if you think just a few plants can’t constitute a problem, you need to go to south Mississippi or Florida and see what it has done there. It can radically change an entire ecosystem.”
Julie White, Extension director for Oktibbeha County, says “There are spots of it pretty much everywhere in this county. The main thing in controlling it is persistence — making a control effort part of a good land stewardship program. If we do this, we’ve got a good chance of keeping it from getting out of control like it has done in south Mississippi and other areas.”
USDA also has a program that has been renewed for another year, Hancock notes, that will provide herbicide to landowners for cogongrass control. NRCS also offers a 75 percent/25 percent cost share through its EQIP program.
Cogongrass plants are more easily identified in the fall, says John Byrd.
“They stand out better in the landscape than in the spring when everything is green. Also helping to confirm ID are the sharp-pointed rhizome tips that protrude from the soil surface — but be cautious, they’re like a toothpick; they will pierce your skin and it hurts like the devil.”