New weed may be major threat in Madison County

By Gary Brock

June 6, 2014

It is an urgent meeting that farmers in the Madison and Fayette county areas need to attend June 10.

Why the urgency? The urgency is called Palmer amaranth. It is a fast-growing and dangerous weed and it has been confirmed to be in the Fayette County and Madison County area.

Fayette County Ohio Cooperative Extension Educator Adam Shepard says that the meeting will be held in the Mt. Sterling Library, 60 W. Columbus St., June 10 at 6 p.m.

Shepard said he will be at the meeting, along with Dr. Mark Loux of OSU Extension in Columbus, who is a state specialist in weed science at OSU. They will give background information on the weed and also ask local residents to alert them to locations where they have spotted the weed.

Shepard said that it is “urgent” for farmers in the Fayette-Madison-Pickaway County areas to attend the meeting. “Especially growers in the Midway area.”

He said this meeting should be “very important to farmers from New Holland to Mount Sterling to Jeffersonville,” he said.

“We want people to know about the outbreaks in our area and what measures farmers can take.” Shepard said.

Shepard said that at the meeting, which is free and open to the public, there will also be a map showing where in the area where the Palmer amaranth weed has been confirmed.

Palmer amaranth is an invasive, aggressive pigweed that is slowly creeping across the Midwest.

Originally native to desert regions of the southwest United States, the plant has slowly taken a major foothold in the southeast and has plagued cotton and soybean farmers ever since.

Recently, Palmer amaranth has been confirmed in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, signalling a bad omen for local farmers.

“We do have several confirmed patches of it in the state already, so its just a matter of time if we can’t get ahead of it,” said Sam Custer, Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Darke County.

Specifically, Palmer amaranth has been identified near Washington Court House and as close as Mercer County. In the case of Mercer County, only one plant was found and confirmed, and it has since been incinerated.

Palmer exhibits aggressive growth and competitiveness with crops.

Under ideal conditions, Palmer amaranth plants can grow two or three inches per day, while causing potential yield losses of more than 90 percent in corn and up to 79 percent in soybean according to recent studies.

The first step to stopping an outbreak is early detection, which often requires visual knowledge of the aggressive weed.

Palmer amaranth leaves are wider and ovate to diamond-shaped, they have no hairs on their stems and leaf surfaces, and its petioles will be as long then the leaf blade itself.

Palmer amaranth is also often confused with three other similar-looking amaranth species: redroot pigweed, smooth pigweed, and common waterhemp.

As soon as the weed is identified, the Ohio State University and extension offices would collaborate on an all-out effort to remove the invasive species as quickly and efficiently as possible. Initially an OSU weed specialist would arrive to identify and confirm the plants and collect samples for testing.

From there, OSU specialists would either dig up the targeted plants and incinerate them or develop an herbicide plan to bring it under control.