War on weeds

By Observer staff September 29, 2008 03:53 pm

Yellow starthistleCOVE — The Yellow Starthistle invasion is the focus of a Wednesday meeting for landowners put on by the Tri-County Cooperative Weed Management Area and Union County.

Tri-County CWMA and Union County have been awarded grant and county money for the past several years to contribute to their yellow starthistle program in the Cove and Union areas.

Yellow starthistle, an invasive plant, can be found both on U.S. Forest Service and private land along the west-facing slopes from Mount Harris south into the Little Creek drainage above Union. It was first discovered in Union County more than 20 years ago and continues to present problems for ranchers, wildlife and recreation activists today.

Livestock and wildlife avoid yellow starthistle because of its low nutritional value, poor palatability and hazardous spines protecting a yellow flower. In large doses, yellow starthistle can cause chewings disease, a fatal neurological disease in horses.

It is thought that this invasive species got its start in Union County by sheep brought into the area from outlying states. Yellow starthistle dominates uninhabited areas where native vegetation has little predominance due to disturbances such as heavy machinery and grazing. 

Union and Tri-County use both chemical and biological controls to contain the spread of yellow starthistle. Control efforts have been very effective in areas where grazing has been deferred and native vegetation and reseeding efforts have had a chance to take root.

Chemical controls and reseeding take place in the late fall by aerial and ground applications.

Grant funding provides for the purchase of chemicals and seed, and participating landowners pay for application costs. Tri-County CWMA and Oregon Department of Agriculture release and monitor bio-control agents, present in various locations throughout the program control area.

A landowners meeting will be at the Ascension Hall at 1006 Church St. in Cove at

7 p.m. for landowners wanting to participate in the program for this year.

Maximum allowable acreage per landowner, control measures for future program success and contracts are some of the items on the agenda.

Any questions can be directed to Angie Gibbons of Tri-County CWMA at 523-2740.