What is a weed?

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  • Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Common Mullein.

  • 1

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Weeds can be defined as any plant that requires some sort of action to reduce its effect on the economy, environment, human health and amenity.

  • 2

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Western Salsify.

  • Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Common Mullein.

  • 1

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Weeds can be defined as any plant that requires some sort of action to reduce its effect on the economy, environment, human health and amenity.

  • 2

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN Western Salsify.

BONNERS FERRY — What is a weed? Sounds like a simple question but can have many different answers depending on the person or the situation. The simplest definition is a plant that is out of place. Ralph Waldo Emerson defined it as “a plant whose virtues has not yet been discovered”.

A better definition of a weed for agriculture and forestry purposes is; any plant that requires some sort of action to reduce its effect on the economy, the environment, human health, and amenity.

Some weeds are classified as invasive or noxious. Noxious is a legal term used to classify weeds that can cause loss to agriculture or forestry operations. Invasive and noxious weeds are introduced plants that are living outside their native environment. Because they are outside their native habitat, invasive weeds don’t have natural enemies present to keep the population in check. Many invasive weeds were brought to America by accident or on purpose.

In Idaho we have 67 weeds that the state has classified as Noxious. These weeds must be controlled by landowners. Of the 67 Noxious weeds in Idaho, Boundary County has about 35 of them. Boundary County also has other invasive weeds that are listed as noxious at the county level and must be controlled.

Weeds come in many different shapes and sizes. Field Bindweed grows close to the ground while Bohemian Knotweed can grow to 12 feet tall. Some weeds only live for one growing season while others like Scotch Broom can live for more than 15 years. Weeds can be broadleaf plants or grasses. Weeds can also be classified as terrestrial or aquatic.

It is estimated that noxious and invasive weeds cost Idaho over $300 million per year. Across the country, noxious and invasive weeds cost about $30 billion per year. It is estimated that if there were no control measures to fight the noxious and invasive weeds, they would spread over 4000 acres per day.

The first part in a weed control plan is education. You must be able to identify a plant to know whether it should be of concern. You need to know the life cycle of the weed so you will be able to properly control. Second, is prevention. Be cautious when moving machinery from infested areas to other sites. Weeds can spread by seeds or vegetative plant parts. When planting, use weed free seed mixes.

Weed control should use Integrated Plant Management (IPM); this is using multiple methods to control the weeds. Mechanical control can include things like hand pulling, cultivation, burning, or mulching. Cultural methods include things like irrigation and/or fertilization. Biological control uses a living organism to control the weed. Goats grazing on a noxious weed is an example. Other things like insects, virus’, and pathogens can be used to control some weeds. The last option is the use of an herbicide. Herbicides are an effective way to control weeds but must be used with caution.

The Boundary County Weed Department is here to help residents with their weed problems. We have educational information to help with identifying weeds, control recommendations, sprayer rentals, and money for the purchase of herbicides. Boundary County residents can sign up for the neighborhood cooperative weed program. Applications may be pick up at the U of I extension office or the county website www.boundarycountyid.org under weed department. Applications must be returned by March 31, 2019 to be eligible. Residents who have been approved for the program then purchase chemicals, keep a log of applications, and return paperwork by August 31,2019. Residents may receive up to $500 through the program. The weed department is also your source for biological control agents for noxious weeds. The agents are insects that feed specifically on certain weeds. These agents are supplied cost free to residents through the Nez Perce Biological Control Center.

For more information on Noxious and Invasive weeds please contact; Boundary County Weed Superintendent at 208-267-5341 or dwenk@boundarycountyid.org.

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