For the third year, Mille Lacs County Public Works will be using mowing, rather than spraying chemicals, as the main way to control noxious weeds along public rights of ways.
That decision came out of a discussion between county Soil and Water Conservation District Director Susan Shaw, county Public Works Director Bruce Cochran and the County Board during the board’s April 15 monthly workshop.
The plan is to avoid using herbicides as the last resort and then just doing spot spraying. Besides mowing, the county in recent years has been using biological controls led by Shaw.
Shaw gives credit to using a biological control method involving a certain kind of beetle to control the noxious weed purple loosestrife before she began her job in 1999. She called it a successful program for controlling the weed.
Her department has been employing a different beetle to control the weed leafy spurge. That weed is more prominent in the right of way and is more difficult to control, according to Shaw. She explains that the soil gets disturbed more in right of way and anytime that happens, weeds grow better. Beetles do better at controlling certain weeds in pastures, she said.
Shaw noted that leafy spurge is toxic to livestock. Mille Lacs County Commissioner Tim Wilhelm, who is a farmer, called leafy spurge, “public enemy No. 1.”
“You don’t want to get it in the hay,” Shaw agreed. She also noted that there will always be some patches of leafy spurge and that chemicals are no more successful than other means to eradicate it completely.
The point of the workshop discussion was to answer Shaw’s question of whether the county should return to a spraying program, like it had prior to the last two years to control noxious weeds. She noted that a lot of people who grow things organically, and a “significant number in the population do not want spraying.”