Weeds Never Sleep

Using winter to plan an integrated weed manage-ment program or to assess your current program can put you a step ahead of the weeds. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security, weeds never sleep. Weeds are making their plans as they lie waiting for the first hint of spring to break dormancy and continue their damage to range and cropland. Ideally, the first step of any integrated weed management plan is to take an inventory of existing weeds on your land. However, you can start now to either review your existing plan or gather tools to start a mapping system. Maps from the NRCS are a good place to start. Quad maps are another source and can be found at the local hardware store. A hand held GPS unit can be used to map out weed patches. Aerial photographs are another possibility from the NRCS. Use this time to gather these tools together and get familiar with what is available.

Armed with the information in these, you can begin to design or review your integrated weed management plan. It is critical to complete this during winter before weeds begin growing. During the planning phase, problems and solutions must be identified and prioritized. An economical plan of action should be developed to provide direction for implementing the plan. You should consider which areas of your land are most susceptible to weed encroachment, which areas have large weed infestations to contain, and ways to detect and eradicate small infestations.

During the planning stage, different options of integrated management should be considered for specific weed problems on your land. Cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical weed control methods are all-powerful tools when used properly. For example, herbicide appli-cation followed by seeding of desirable grasses may be an option for a weed infestation in which no understory of desirable grasses exists. Another example may be the use of goats to graze established leafy spurge plants while spraying new small sites with a herbicide. Your county Extension agent or county weed supervisor can advise you in the design of an integrated weed management program for your land.

If you haven't had an integrated weed management plan, your winter study and mental review of your land will set you up for your springtime weed survey and inventory. The goals of a weed inventory are to determine weed species present, area infested, density of infestation and any areas under threat of infestation. If you are very familiar with what's on your land, some of these parameters can be estimated and taken into account when you begin planning your integrated weed management program during the winter. However, surveying your land early in the spring is necessary to provide an accurate, complete assessment of weeds present, weed spread from the previous year, increases in density, etc., and to determine if your plan is appropriate.

Use winter to get a head start on fighting weeds, weeds never sleep.


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