Ranchers on the lookout for pigweed as weather warms

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Invasive plant threatens grazing lands if not treated

As the weather gets warmer, a plant that ranchers will be on the lookout for is spiny amaranth, more commonly known as spiny pigweed.

Pigweed is prolific seed, meaning it produces in abundance by spreading seeds.

"It's an obnoxious plant," said Tim Schnakenberg, regional agronomy specialist at the University of Missouri Extension. "Cattle go around it when the pasture is infested, and they won't graze near it."

If the weed begins to grow in an area where the rancher produces hay, it will spread rapidly across the farm when it is bailed. This limits the pasture, as livestock do not want to be near it.

According to Schnakenberg, pigweed is most often found in barn lots or in areas where cattle congregate.

"This is a problem we see every year," Schnakenberg said. "More rain this year might allow it to propagate more."

It is not only a problem for ranchers, but also for gardeners.

Cheryl Gianino purchased manure from a local farmer that contained the seed, and the plant invaded her garden.

"Spiney pigweed is the most horrible thing on the planet," she said. "It took two or three years of pulling up the plants before they went to seed -- nasty animals."

Gianino said the thorns were very painful if one should be stuck by them.

The plant grows best in summer months. As the weather gets warmer, ranchers will be watching for the red plant with stickers.

Due to its rapid spreading, Schnakenberg said it is best to spray the field to get ahead of the plant. He recommends using Grazon P + D, as it contains a residual to kill the plant and keep it from coming back, or to use a mixture of 2,4-D and Dicamba.

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