Weed management decisions vary according to plant life cycles, infestation size, environmental parameters and management objectives. Hand-pulling a perennial weed species such as Canada thistle or leafy spurge is a futile effort, but very effective for control of a biennial plant such as diffuse knapweed. Releasing biocontrol insects for control of dalmatian toadflax on a 500 acre property is wise, but relying on insects for controlling small patches on a 40 acre pasture is inefficient. Successful weed management requires proper plant identification, selection of effective management methods and monitoring the effects over time.
Prevention is the most essential aspect of weed management. Once a noxious weed infestation becomes established, any increase in size and density creates increasingly more expensive management efforts. Awareness of weed seed sources and plant identification is a must. Feel free to call the Weed District office for help with identification or to set up a site visit, and recognize:
Cultural control, the establishment of competitive and desired vegetation, prevents or slows down invasion by weedy species and is a key component of successful weed management. Weeds are typically opportunistic and readily invade disturbed sites. Impacts from road construction, intensive livestock grazing, densely populated prairie dog colonies and other disturbances that damage or remove desirable and competitive vegetation create sites for noxious weed invasion. Controlling weeds on such sites can be futile without vegetative restoration, as weeds will readily re-invade the disturbed area. Establishment of grassland or pasture can be challenging. Success often depends on proper species selection suitable for a particular soil type, moisture regime and growing season. Other factors such as soil compaction, seeding depth, time of year, and weed control during establishment can be critical to success. Whether seeding to native plants or pasture grasses, it's important to consult with NRCS, a commercial seeder, CSU Extension or other experts prior to investing time and money.
Herbicide application can provide the most effective and time-efficient method of managing weeds. Numerous herbicides are available that provide effective weed control and are selective in that grasses are not injured. Along with herbicide use is user responsibility and compliance with all product label requirements for herbicide handling, use, and cleanup. Always read the label and keep in mind the label is legally binding. When using herbicides be mindful of proximity to water, trees, shrubs and other desirable vegetation. The Herbicide Reference Guide lists products commonly used for control of noxious weeds on small acreage properties. The guide provides information necessary to help decide which herbicide is most appropriate for a particular weed in a particular setting, but is not the complete label. Complete label information can be obtained from the website www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.
Herbicides are applied by spot spraying - single nozzle application targeting individual plants, or broadcast spraying - multiple nozzles covering an entire area. Whatever method is used, calibration of spray equipment (gallons per acre spray output) is essential for accurate delivery and mixing calculations. Estimating or guessing sprayer output can lead to misapplication which either injures non-target plants or results in failure to control the target weed species, see Sprayer Calibration. For professional application see the applicator list in this website.
The goal of biological control is not eradication, but the use of living agents to suppress vigor and spread of weeds. Such agents can be insects, bacteria, fungi, or grazing animals such as sheep, goats, cattle or horses. Grazing produces results similar to mowing, and bacteria and fungi are seldom available for noxious weed management. Biological control is most commonly thought of as 'insect biocontrol'.
USDA-APHIS (United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), is the federal agency responsible for authorizing the screening and importation of biocontrol insects. APHIS conducts intensive multi-year screening programs assuring an insect agent's host specificity (feeds only on target weed species, not other plants) prior to approval for release.
Biological weed control through insect/plant interactions is an important component of the County's weed management program. Insect agents, proven to be effective, are utilized in cases where eradication is impractical due to the vastness or inaccessibility of an infestation, and where other methods of management are not feasible. Insect agents typically require 3-5 years for establishment and can limit the spread and density of target weed species by feeding on leaves, stems, roots and/or seed heads. One must realize that eradication of a weed cannot be attained through insect biocontrol. The most effective scenario is a weed infestation reduced to a 'tolerable level', a level where the insect agents are significantly limiting distribution and abundance of the target weed species and the weed density is no longer considered detrimental to the desired plant community. Some biocontrol insects proven to be successful in Larimer County are:
For more information on insect biocontrol and to obtain insects, see Colorado Biological Pest Control Program or call the Colorado Department of Agriculture Insectory at Palisade, Colorado 866-324-2963.
Mechanical control consists of methods that kill or suppress weeds through physical disruption. Such methods include pulling, digging, disking, plowing and mowing. Success of various mechanical control methods is dependant on the life cycle of the target weed species.