It’s a call to arms — an appeal to land stewards and other Alabama citizens to take back what has been lost to a relentless invader within the past few decades.

The enemy is cogongrass. The losers have been Alabama pasturelands, forestland and countless home landscapes. Until now, cogongrass has enjoyed the upper hand — something a group of conference organizers is determined to change.

A regional conference focused on confronting cogongrass in the South will be held at the Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Nov. 7-8.

Organizers believe the conference is critically needed to provide Alabamians with the most up-to-date strategies for stopping this virulent weed and restoring infested lands. Strategies and treatments for forests, preserves, rights-of-way and pastures will be explored. All of these strategies and treatments also have direct applications to utilities, municipalities and parks, they say.

“Cogongrass is a growing threat as it continues its rapid spread across the Southeast, reducing forest and pasture productivity, destroying wildlife habitat, and affecting the rights of ways and presenting an extreme fire hazard,” says Nancy J. Loewenstein, Auburn University assistant professor of forestry and wildlife sciences.

“The purpose of the conference is to convey the latest understanding in restoring lands, managing, controlling and eradicating cogongrass and to explore existing and needed networks for coordinating strategies for successful cogongrass management,” she says.

The problem is nothing less than a crisis, conference organizers say. Cogongrass is considered the worst invasive plant threat in the southern United States infesting hundreds of thousands of acres in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Spread rates occur at thousands of acres a year. Most of the eastern United States and Pacific Northwest states are considered vulnerable.

 Experts aren’t certain how much loss in productivity has occurred as a result of this weed. What they do know is that vast displacements of native plants and wildlife is under way — a problem made even worse by the extreme flammability of the grass.

Conditions are growing intolerable, say experts, who also stress that a concerted effort is needed now to stop the weed’s spread and to reclaim and secure these lands.

For more information about the conference, contact Nancy Loewenstein at (334) 844-1061.