Declaring war on weeds

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

Spring and early summer rains have really fed nasty weeds here on the Western Slope.

So much so that Governor Ritter has declared war on weeds and this week is "Weed Awareness Week." Officials estimate that weeds cost Colorado landowners $100 million a year and infest more than one million acres of land. If left untreated they can push our native wildflowers to the brink of extinction.

Many homeowners on the Western Slope have noticed an explosion of weeds this season. "This was just mowed this morning and they're already popping up," says Lee Calkins of her lawn.

For her, getting rid of weeds has become a daily ritual for her and her husband, "We come out here just about every morning while it's still cool and pull weeds." It's seems to be a never ending battle. "They sprout back up again and then we have to come back the next day and pull again," says Calkins.

She's not alone, this year's crazy weather has made the Western Slope perfect for an infestation. "Usually by mid–July plants are starting to die back but not this year, they keep growing and growing," says Jude Sinota, Mesa County weed and pest inspector.

This explosion keeps people like Brent Constable at the Fruita Co–Op very busy, while costing local framers some major green. "They're spending more money to keep the weed pressure down so they can grow a crop," says Constable. It's not just the farmers that are digging down deep to fight this battle. "Milk weed is toxic to horses so I'm doing a lot of pasture spraying, a lot more spraying than normal," says Constable.

It's not only horses that need stay away from these pests, many other weeds can be harmful. "They can be toxic to humans, pets and they are aggressive and overcrowd anything else," says Sinota.

Federal agencies estimate that noxious weeds are spreading at a rate of 4,600 acres a day, which is why the county is asking for your help. "If you see a funny plant call us or take a pic so we can get on it right away," says Sinota. Because if you just try to ignore them they could cause some real damage.

"The weeds can take over and we might not have any more wild flowers that we all love to look at," Sinota says.

The Mesa County Division of Pest Management is holding a workshop Thursday from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Park Barn to help people to identify local noxious weeds and how you can take care of them. People are urged to bring in their own weeds, in a plastic bag, so they can be identified. Click on the link below for the Mesa County Pest Management web-site.

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