June 22 – 28, 2018Vol. 20, No. 3

How Invasive Plants Get Managed on a Farm

A 200-gallon tank used to spray herbicide.

by Luis Aponte

A farm in Litchfield manages a dairy business with 88 head of cows. They are very focused and responsible farmers, and, like most dairy farmers, keeping their lands productive is on the top of their list of priorities. Just like so many landowners in Maine right now, they have had a problem that, if left unmanaged, can take over lands and prevent them from being productive or manageable: invasive species.

The invasive plants that have been pestering their farm for years are multiflora rose (Rosa multflora), Japanese honeysuckle (Locinera japonica) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Populations were growing on the field borders and even some spreading into the middle of the field. As they kept the fight going with different techniques, they decided to apply for USDA assistance and were granted dollars to control his invasive plant population through chemical control, under the practice of brush management.

In 2017, they decided to acquire a 200-gallon tank sprayer with 300 feet hose capacity which he mounts to his tractor to reach far into areas that may not otherwise be accessible. With this instrument and some technical assistance by NRCS planners, he tackled his invasive plants head on.

For chemical control he used two herbicides. The first one was a generic brand of glyphosate. The other was 2-4 D. He followed the label instructions. For the multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle, glyphosate was a very effective control method, but in the case of Japanese barberry, glyphosate was ineffective.

So he decided to buy 2-4 D and apply as the label mandated. He found that chemical to be very effective with barberry, as the effects could be seen rapidly. As he has dealt with invasives for years, he has learned to find which chemicals are more effective for certain plants.

As the population of invasive plants grows in Maine, landowners have become very aware that this is a state-wide concern. You can hear about different techniques producers are utilizing, from bush-hogging the fields, to pulling invasives with different types of homemade instruments.

This farmer schedules two full weeks to tackle invasives every year, and spends about $10-$15 an acre depending on the density of the plant population. Cost estimates from certified applicators were in the range of $50-$250 an acre. NRCS Brush Management helps pay for part of the practice, i.e. herbicide, some of the labor, and part of the cost of spraying equipment. The producer addressed 3 acres of invasive species under the program. They continue to control invasives on their own on an annual basis.

The real issue is taking the time to be able to do that. They acknowledged that it is unreal to think that you can eradicate the species in your property, but keeping them controlled and away from the pasture and cropland can be realistic goals. To quote the producer, "Stay with it, and try to keep up," he said about his method of control.

A Japanese honeysuckle after being sprayed with glyphosate.

It is very important to mention that there is a lot of guidance and technical assistance available. The Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been working side by side with the Maine Natural Areas Program to develop technical resources for landowners to identify, notify, and control invasive species on their land. In the last two years they developed invasive species surveys on agricultural lands that identify species, density of those species, methods of control and prioritization of attack.

The person leading the charge for the Maine Natural Areas Program is Nancy Olmsted, she is an Invasive Plant Biologist. Nancy has been very active in many communities around Maine to answer questions and provide great guidance on invasive species and how to deal with this issues in different types of landbases.

This week's guest columnist is a NRCS staff member working in the office of the Kennebec Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta.