Field of Leafy Spurge, photo credit: Terry Glase, Plains, Montana. From the Montana Weed Control Association website. One man’s flower is another man’s noxious weed.
Just ask any Montana rancher and they’ll tell you the yellow flowered plants that try to blanket their pastures are not to be marveled at.
Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) can be found in every county of the Big Sky Country, including several other northern states. The rangeland cattle carrying capacity killer’s vigorous root system can reach depths of 30 feet – allowing the plant to store enough nutrients to last through what might as well be a nuclear explosion.
Then there’s the Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).
This white spotted, black beetle bores into the heartwood of trees – killing them. It preys on Maple, Poplar, Birch and Elm trees, just to name a few, and can be found in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.
What do these and other invasive species have in common? The need to take preventive action to stop them from infesting new regions of the country. As tourism season warms up, traffic through all areas of the country and foreign countries increase chances of new invasive species being introduced to areas. Because of this, April has been named Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“Invasive species threaten the health and profitability of U.S. agriculture and forestry, and the many jobs these sectors support,” says Kevin Shea, Administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “To protect that crucial value, USDA and its partners work hard every day to keep invasive pests and diseases out of the United States and to control those that may slip in.”
Invasive plant pests and harmful weeds can be spread in a number of ways. From animal manure and hair coats to camper’s firewood and vehicles.
On USDA’s Hungry Pests website steps are outlined for farmers and ranchers to keep in mind to prevent the spread of invasive pests.
Specific guidelines for farmers and ranchers include:
- Learn to identify the invasive species in your area.
- Report any sightings to your county extension agent or local USDA office. The sooner invasive species are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to control them.
- Clean your boots, gear, truck bed, tires and harvesting equipment after working a site to make sure you are not spreading seeds, insects or spores to a new location.
- Be sure to control invasive plants along fencerows, ditches and other areas adjacent to fields.
- Always use weed-free hay and feed for your animals.