Whether it’s a small hobby farm or a large scale farm, all farmers should be aware of the invasive species that can be growing in their fields. Just a few are Jimson Weed, Canadian Thistle, and Russian Knapweed. All are similar because they overtake overgrazed pastures, barnyards, and fields.
Jimson Weed is an important invasive for farming operations; it is poisonous to all livestock animals. Not only can it be a problem in underused fields, overgrazed pastures and in the barnyard, but it can also be a problem in crop fields, particularly soy beans. Farmers should be watch out for this plant and taking appropriate measures to make sure that it’s not present where animals are grazing. They will most likely avoid it because of the odor and taste, but in sparse pastures, they could be tempted to consume it if they are hungry enough. If the farmer is producing hay and silage they should make sure that all the Jimson Weed has been removed prior to harvesting because this can contaminate the feed, making the animals sick. The seed of Jimson Weed can contaminate grain which most commonly effects chickens. The use of herbicides is the most effective way to eliminate Jimson Weed, just remember to take proper precautions. Although many animals have gotten sick from Jimson Weed, it is more common for humans to get sick from this plant. Children especially because they think the flower is pretty and end up ingesting it.
Canadian Thistle is another common invasive species in fields. It reduces pasture capacity and forage as well as overtaking native species. It can produce up to 3,000 seeds annually and the seeds can last in the ground for up to ten years. This plant can be poisonous to livestock, but only in large quantities, therefore Jimson Weed is a bigger concern for the animals. This is a tough plant to get rid of, therefore a foliar herbicide plan should be used in both the spring and the fall. Stinger is a product that is relatively specific to thistles and knapweed that has been shown to be effective on this plant. Mowing before the flowers come out is also beneficial, but they plant can flower multiple times during the season. Pre-flower mowing just once will not help decrease the amount of plants. Farmers should also know that tillage stimulates growth and can cause more seeds to spread and more plants to grow.
Last but not least is Russian Knapweed. This stubborn plant is slow to start, but once it is established it can spread aggressively. It can produce up to 1,200 seeds per year. Livestock generally avoid this plant because of its taste but it isn’t good for them to ingest in hay. Horses are especially sensitive if they consume Russian Knapweed because it can cause a fatal neurological disorder that affects the muscles that allow them to swallow. This puts the horse at risk for starvation. To help remove this plant from pastures, herbicides can be helpful. Farmers can mow in two to three intervals before the seeds set to decrease seed and shoot production. They can also use deep cultivation to help eliminate this plant however do not use shallow cultivation.
These are just a few out of the many plants that can cause harm to field production as well as livestock. Farmers should be aware of these plants due to their effects on animals.
-Jess Holmes, CapMo PRISM Project Assistant
This November, all three PRISM staff members attended the annual CCE In-Service at Cornell’s Ithaca Campus. The programming ranged over the course of the three day conference, from how to structure environmental messaging, advances in beneficial insect predators of invasive species, the use of drones in conservation, and the annual reports from each PRISM's Coordinator, which was tackled by Capital-Mohawk PRISM Coordinator Laurel Gailor. Her presentation’s theme was “At the Crossroads,” which pointed out how the Capital-Mohawk region is an important area in terms of transportation, shipping, and at the confluence of major waterways of New York, the Mohawk and Hudson rivers.
While we are literally at the crossroads of major highways and rivers (making the Capital-Mohawk region an extremely important area to work on invasive species that make use of those pathways for statewide spread), the PRISM itself is at a crossroads in terms of staffing and funding. Two coordinators, myself and Leah Gorman, have been brought on this year and we are currently in the final stages of application for the five-year grant that secures the PRISM funding through the DEC. All of us here at the PRISM are looking towards the future, increasing seasonal staff positions for the summer to tackle a variety of projects. We will again be utilizing the DEC ESF Intern program to bring on boat stewards and terrestrial scouting interns, starting to fill in data gaps in our region to access areas that are ecologically valuable and where we know relatively little about what invasives are found there. We also hope to bring on a Hemlock-specific intern due to the recent findings of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in the Adirondacks and Schenectady County, to both scout for HWA and Elongate Hemlock Scale as well as assist with outreach and citizen science efforts to access the spread of these tree pests for the purpose of slowing down their spread throughout our state.
Biocontrol was a large part of the conference, especially with the Hemlock Initiative opening their new lab to all conference participants. Myself and Leah toured the facility, where they work to raise the HWA biocontrol beetle, Laricobus nigrinus. Other promising biocontrol insects are being researched at Cornell for both Water Chestnut and both kinds of Swallowwort, both extremely invasive plants that have taken over large areas of New York. Cap-Mo is currently looking into how we can take part in statewide testing and monitoring of these insects and their effectiveness, as well as using tried and true mechanical methods of invasive species prevention and removal. We encourage anyone in the region who is currently working on projects that deal with invasive species to contact us, we will help however possible.
In short, we have a great year ahead of us, and ideas for future projects were plentiful at the In-service. We are thinking about all avenues possible for us to help control the spread of invasive species in this coming year, both in the region and in the state at large. Today, the PRISM steering committee is meeting to work on the yearly workplan, which will help guide our efforts as we progress through the calendar. We may be at the crossroads here in the Capital-Mohawk region, but rest assured, we will make the right turn.
Our 2018 Workplan created on 12/7/17 is available for viewing here!