New study aimed at halting the spread of leafy spurge

leafy spurge growing

Vegetation managers and researchers alike are seeking new answers for controlling the spread of leafy spurge. A new study that includes trials of TerraVueherbicide aims to find ways to take down this perennial invader.

Leafy spurge is a toxic invader of lands across much of the U.S. It’s especially troublesome in the West, where it works to crowd out native and desirable vegetation, making pasture and grassland much less productive, reducing wildlife habitat and threatening roadside grass stands. Leafy spurge spreads quickly and aggressively with seeds that can travel in a variety of ways, including by water.

It’s why one researcher has begun looking for new ways to manage this perennial plant, including using new herbicide technology. Dr. Dan Tekiela is an assistant professor of invasive plant ecology and extension specialist with the University of Wyoming. Earlier this season, he began research in the Yampa River watershed area in northwestern Colorado.

Here, leafy spurge is invading native vegetation, and threatening to further spread its seeds downstream to affect other important sites. One site of particular importance is Dinosaur National Monument, a unit of the national park system that was designated to protect 46 miles of the Yampa River at its confluence with the Green River. The Yampa River is the largest remaining natural-flowing tributary in the Colorado River Basin.

“The objective of our research is to protect these landscapes from one of the most problematic weed invaders in the West through proper management,” Dr. Tekiela says. “We’re looking to record the results of multiple different herbicide treatments on leafy spurge in combination with grazing and without grazing.”

Applications of Milestone® herbicide will be used, as will treatments using the new TerraVue herbicide, which Tekiela hopes will result in better control. Pending EPA registration, TerraVue is expected to control more than 140 broadleaf weed species, as well as multiple woody plant species. Sheep will be used to graze the test sites.

The research is being done as part of the Yampa River Leafy Spurge Project, which brings together landowners, agencies, educators and organizations to establish effective programs for integrated management of invasive leafy spurge. Support is being provided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Fund and northwestern Colorado counties. Dr. Tekiela looks to publish his findings in 2020.

 

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