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Noxious weeds can be toxic to livestock and can crowd out rangeland vegetation

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DEBBIE WOOD
 - Scotch thistle, shown in the above photo of a local pasture, is one of the primary noxious weeds that Crooked River Weed Management is struggling with this year.

Noxious weeds are sometimes an afterthought in local agriculture.

But Debbie Wood, Crooked River Weed Management coordinator, believes it is a mistake not to deal with them vigilantly.

"I know that farmers and ranchers have a lot going on, and sometimes weeds get put on the back burner," she said, "but if you don't get after the weeds, they are eventually going to take over your pasture or your rangeland."

Wood says that fighting noxious weeds in Crook County is an ongoing challenge, and while each year's weather brings different types of weeds to the area, people are often fighting the same amount of them.

"Right now, our big struggle is with Scotch thistle," she said. "It's a weed that is easy to kill — you can even take a shovel to it when you see the rosettes form — but it's a matter of timing."

Some noxious weeds, like the Scotch thistle, need dealt with early, before they seed out and spread into pastures and rangelands as they have this year.

"We see medusa taking over rangeland," Wood added, "and that takes away from vegetation that would normally be for your cattle."

Other weeds that have emerged more prominently this year include spotted knapweed, Russian knapweed and puncturevine.

Although spring has passed, it is not too late for farmers and ranchers to attack certain noxious weeds. Wood notes that some weeds arrive later, such as puncturevine, and it is best to spray some of them in the late summer and early fall as opposed to early spring.

One of the primary concerns with noxious weeds is that certain types are toxic to livestock.

"The biggest thing is knowing what is in your pasture — taking inventory, looking to see what's there, especially haying the field," she said, adding that people should pay attention to their hay if they purchase it from another farm and try to ensure that it is free of potentially toxic weeds.

While the battle against noxious weeds in Crook County remains an ongoing battle, Wood said that Crooked River Weed Management, a nonprofit through OSU Extension Service, is helping locals get a handle on them. She noted that the organization receives grant funds from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon State Weed Board.

"Those funds go to projects and to help local private landowners around here to help them with their noxious weed issues," she said. "Through the years, we have been working with the farmers and ranchers around here, and a lot of it is education and outreach."

In addition, Crooked River Weed Management provides a cost-sharing program to help people with the cost of herbicides.

"We are seeing a lot of people in that program," Wood said. "I think that we are getting a better hold on the weeds here in Crook County compared to other counties."

To reach Crooked River Weed Management, call 541-447-9971.

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