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Stark County Weed Control touts steady improvement

Stark County Weed Control has slowly turned the tides on what was once a losing battle. According to information presented during a meeting of the Stark County Weed Control Board on Wednesday morning, Stark County has shown "massive improvement" ...

Stark County Weed Control offices. (James Miller / The Dickinson Press)
Stark County Weed Control offices. (James Miller / The Dickinson Press)

Stark County Weed Control has slowly turned the tides on what was once a losing battle. According to information presented during a meeting of the Stark County Weed Control Board on Wednesday morning, Stark County has shown "massive improvement" in eradicating noxious weeds.

The weed problems reached a peak a year ago, as weeds were found spread throughout the county. Landowners, farmers and ranchers attended a contentious Weed Control Board meeting and voiced concerns. The public outcry resulted in many changes.

"I think the biggest help between last year and this year was our dedication to meeting more regularly and the improvements made to the Landowner Assistance Program," Travis Jepson, weed officer for Stark County, said. "Last year we would cover 60 percent of the cost share toward chemicals and the landowner paid 40 percent; now it's 70/30. Landowners are taking the additional savings and putting that toward hiring professional applicators to spray weeds for them, resulting in the county really tackling the weed issues we witnessed in previous years."

According to weed control statistics provided by Jepson, chemical sales have grown significantly since the cost share amendments were made to the assistance program-denoting concerted joint efforts by landowners and the county to eradicate the noxious and invasive weeds.

Top chemical products saw sales skyrocket this year as Stark County picked up a greater portion of the bill. Milestone sales went up 42 percent, Liberate went up 17 percent, Plateau went up 36 percent, MSO went up 57 percent, Tordon went up 80 percent and 24-d is up 61 percent.

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"There's always going to be ebbs and flows when it comes to weeds," Jepson said. "Based on weather conditions and a host of other factors, weeds can be no issue or a big issue. Our three biggest issues this year have been with leafy spurge, Canada thistle and absinthe wormwood."

Stark County has one full-time, certified weed control staffer on its payroll. Jepson is directly responsible for everything from transport and spraying to planning and budgeting. Part-time employees, mainly college students and teachers, assist the weed control agent between May and August, but usually return to their full-time jobs after summer ends.

Despite the low manpower, Jepson and crew fully sprayed every county and state roadway in Stark County once and conducted a second pass on nearly half.

Stark County paid $139,108 for chemicals under the Landowner Assistance Program, money well spent according to Jepson.

"We've made a lot of progress so far as people seeing the issue, doing their part, and all you can do is keep improving year after year. It's never going to go away, but the more we recognize the issue affects everyone the better off we'll all be," Jepson said.

Jepson said weeds are best controlled early when the lower labeled herbicide rate is effective.

"Broad-spectrum herbicides with residual control are cost-effective options and stop weeds that germinate after spraying, but with the time demands of spring often we see pasture spraying gets delayed." he said. "For best results, spray weeds while they are actively growing, but before flowering and seed production. As weeds grow and mature, adjust application rates to the higher side of the labeled rate range."

Next year's Landowner Assistance Program is expected to be conducted much the same as in the past few years. Distribution will be held on selected Wednesdays throughout the summer. Applications can be submitted to the Stark County Weed Control office before the date of pickup.

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Distribution is held at the weed control shop behind the county road department building. The shop phone number is 456-7636.

For more information about the Landowner Assistance Program, visit www.starkcountynd.gov .

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