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Roadside Use of Native Plants

Pulling Together — New Approaches for Weed Prevention and Management in the United States

Randy Westbrooks, Arrival and Plant Health Inspection Service

Weed Prevention — An Important Tool in Traditional Weed Management: Throughout history, weed management in crops has been an all consuming chore for most of the human population. In areas of the world where hand cultivation is still the primary means of weed control, early detection and removal are still regarded as critical aspects of crop production. This was also the norm in the United States until herbicides introduced after WWII reduced the time and labor involved in weed management.

New Strategies for Weed Prevention: Today, with increasing concerns about environmental protection, and ever increasing restrictions on the wide spread use of pesticides, prevention is once again being considered as an important tool in dealing with weeds. Prevention strategies to protect the United States and other countries from introduced invasive plants include production of weed free commodities in exporting countries; preclearance of risk commodities at foreign ports of export; port of entry inspections; and finally, early detection, containment, and eradication of incipient infestations before they become established and begin to spread.

Role of Federal Agencies in Weed Prevention and Management: In 1994, 17 federal agencies headquartered in Washington, D.C., formed the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW) to address the invasive plant issue on a national scale. In 1997, FICMNEW developed and published a National Strategy for Invasive Plant Management. Major goals of the national strategy include weed prevention, weed control, and restoration of degraded lands. Research, education and partnerships are cross cutting elements that are critical to achieving each goal of the strategy.

Strategies for Early Detection and Rapid Response to New Weed Infestations: The establishment of volunteer plant detection and reporting networks and state weed teams in each state, as recommended under the national strategy, would facilitate early detection and rapid response to new infestations of weeds before they become wide spread in the United States.

Highways and Byways — Major Corridors for the Spread of Weeds: Roadways serve as major corridors for spread of serious weeds such as yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) in the West and cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) in the Gulf Coast Region. In order to minimize the spread of such weeds along roadsides, weeds should be controlled early in the season to prevent reproduction of seeds and other propagules that hitch hike on traveling vehicles such as trucks and cars. In addition, mowing machines and other highway maintenance equipment should be thoroughly cleaned prior to leaving a known infested area to prevent weeds from being transported to new areas.

Weed prevention is much easier and cheaper than control of widespread infestations!

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Questions and feedback should be directed to Deirdre Remley (deirdre.remley@dot.gov, 202-366-0524).

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