Grant available to help combat noxious weeds in Colorado

Oct 9, 2009
by WLJ
Grant available to help combat noxious weeds in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has grant funds available to help fight seven species of noxious weeds on Colorado’s eastern plains.

“The grants provide an opportunity for county noxious weed programs and Conservation Districts to gain financial support in eliminating weeds that could have devastating effects on Colorado’s natural resources,” said CDA’s state weed coordinator, Kelly Uhing. “We are encouraging Colorado residents to contact their local weed program administrators or Conservation Districts if they are interested in taking advantage of these funds.”

Counties and Conservation Districts are eligible to apply for grant funds through the High Plains Invasives Project (HPIP) which was established through a Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) grant funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The money from the GL- CI grant is to be used towards identification and management of seven uncommon noxious weeds found on the eastern plains of Colorado before they gain a foothold on prairie and grazing lands. This is a preventative project with the objective of minimizing negative impacts to eastern Colorado’s agriculture and natural areas.

Counties and Conservation Districts are encouraged to work together by forming weed management cooperatives to address their noxious weed issues. Partners can then apply for funding and are awarded through a competitive grant process.

The seven species that are to be managed are: leafy spurge, Dalmatian toadflax, diffuse knapweed, spotted knapweed, Russian knapweed, salt cedar (tamarisk), and African rue.

Leafy spurge produces a milky sap that can be a skin irritant. Flowers are a yellowish-green color enclosed by two heart-shaped yellow-green bracts, leaves are simple, alternate, and oblong. Plants are very aggressive, growing from an advantageous root system and a seed dispersal mechanism that shoots seeds up to 15 feet. Leafy spurge can be toxic to cattle, but can be foraged by goats and sheep. Commonly found in riparian areas, rangeland and croplands.

Dalmatian toadflax flowers in May through the fall, and is an escaped ornamental. Flowers are bright yellow snapdragon-like flowers with orange and white accents, leaves are heart-shaped, thick, waxy, and wrap on the stems of plants. Plants produce 500,000 seeds per year, most of these seeds fall within 18 inches of the plant and stay viable for 10 years. Commonly found in pastures, meadows, roadsides and rangeland, even in excellent condition.

Diffuse knapweed flowers July to September, and only reproduces by seed. Flowers are white to laven der

in color, leaves are pinnately compound, and bracts on the flower head appear comb-shaped. At maturity, the plant dies and forms a tumble weed, this is the main dispersal of its 18,000 seeds. Commonly found on disturbed soils, ditch-banks, roadsides and fence rows.

Spotted knapweed is a tall, erect plant with rigid stems, and openly branches on the upper half of the plant. Flowers are urn-shaped, pink to purple in color, with long narrow petals, leaves are oblong shaped and pinnately divided, and bracts on the flower head are fringed with black tips. Plants produce 5,000 to 40,000 seeds per year. Commonly found in rangeland, roadsides, meadows, and disturbed and sandy soils. Over 2.8 million acres in the state of Montana are infested with spotted knapweed. It is imperative that a similar situation is prevented from occurring in Colorado.

Russian knapweed flowers are urn-shaped dark pink with white tips, leaves are oblong with short stiff hairs, and bracts on the flower heads are papery. Large populations of this plant have been known to be allelopathic, which may sterilize the surrounding soil only allowing Russian knapweed to survive. Plants are toxic to horses if consumed in large quantities. Commonly found on disturbed soils, ditch-banks, roadsides, pastures, and riparian areas.

Salt cedar (tamarisk) is a perennial tree or shrub that increases the salinity of surface soil, rendering it inhospitable to native plant species. With a deep taproot, the plant out-competes native habitat and the plant produces 600,000 seeds per year. Commonly found in saturated soils such as riparian areas and open sunny ground. HPIP can only offer assistance to salt cedar management projects within the Republican River Watershed.

African rue flowers have five distinct white petals, leaves are very succulent, and the plant can withstand drought conditions. Plants have a deep taproot which draws water away from native vegetation, seeds are globular shaped with many tiny seeds and are toxic to cattle. Commonly found in compacted soils, croplands, rangelands, roadsides and bare ground. In Colorado, African rue is known only to infest Las Animas County. It is advised that counties in the southern part of the state should be aware of the potential spread of this species into their jurisdictions. African rue is designated as a List A species on the state’s Noxious Weed List. All populations of this species found in Colorado are required to be eradicated.

“Although these grants will be awarded to counties and Conservation Districts, residents interested in participating in this program should contact their local programs to find out how they can take part in this battle against noxious weeds,” said Uhing.

Contact information for local noxious weed programs and Conservation Districts can be found by visiting ag/csd. The official request for proposals will be announced in October 2009.

Additional questions may be directed to Michael Rigirozzi, Colorado Department of Agriculture, High Plains We e d S p e c i a l i s t , 303/239-5738 or visit www. — WLJ