Weed Commissioner

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The Weed Commissioner is responsible for controlling noxious weeds within the right-of-way of the County road system, and also responds to complaints regarding weeds on private lands. The Weed Commissioner is an employee of the Secondary Road Department.  To report issues regarding noxious weeds, contact:
        Weed Commissioner:  Brian Eldridge 

                                            beldridge@boonecounty.iowa.gov  
                                                                  or 
                                            boonecountyengr@boonecounty.iowa.gov

                                            Telephone: 515-433-0530

ABOUT THE IOWA WEED LAW – Chapter 317 of the Code of Iowa
This law was enacted by the Iowa Legislature to address the proliferation of plant species, many imported from Eurasia by immigrant settlers either accidentally or with purpose, which became weedy problems for Iowa agriculture. The Law sets forth a list of plant species that were designated to be noxious weeds, and specified the remedy for dealing with these plants on public and private lands. The Law created the office of Weed Commissioner to carry out enforcement of control of these species on both public and private lands. In the Law, control is defined as the prevention of seed production, and may be accomplished by (in order of preference) mowing, burning, or otherwise destroying them or as a final resort spraying them.
Of course, over time conditions and technology have changed - some weeds on the list have become much less of a problem and don’t require much management, some are still difficult control issues, and a few new arrivals have been added. Spraying has generally moved to the front of the list of preferred control measures, especially for the perennials. Generally, the annuals and biennials can be controlled by timely mowing where possible, but most perennial weeds are largely unaffected by mowing. In any case, as long as no seed is produced the minimum standard in the Law is met.

BOONE COUNTY’S PROBLEM WEEDS
In our county, the single most difficult and numerous noxious weed has been Canada Thistle- circium arvense. Strangely, though we call this weed Canada Thistle, it actually is a Eurasian import to North America. This is a perennial weed that can form large colonies which can overpower most other plant types and dominate areas, eliminating desirable species.
Some of its’ close relatives including Musk Thistle, Plumeless Thistle, and Tall Thistle, while all biennials, are also significant problems in some areas. They are not colony forming but perhaps are more noticeable to people because they grow much taller than Canada Thistle. Most of the other weeds on the noxious list, while having some presence in the county, are not significant control problems at this time.

BOONE COUNTY’S RIGHT-OF-WAY CONTROL PROGRAM
In Boone County, the Weed Commissioner is charged with operating a control program on the County's right-of-ways. The county has around 900 miles of paved and gravel roads, which gives us about 5,500 acres of ditches to manage. We have elected to make use of IRVM (Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management) principles in our approach to right-of-way management. This approach relies on spot spraying only our target species – mostly the thistle family. We attack the problems while leaving the non-problem areas untreated. This puts less pesticide load in the environment and encourages more of a variety in plant types present, including native forbs such as the Coneflowers, New England Aster, Prairie Phlox, Sunflower Heliopsis, Lead Plant, Butterfly Milkweed and others, rather than just a bromegrass monoculture. All of these native plants have been observed in the right-of-way, and we hope to see more different plant types in the future. We normally operate spraying programs in the spring and early summer as conditions permit. About half the right-of-ways are spot sprayed by the Weed Commissioner while the other half is covered by a custom applicator. This allows us to be as timely as possible at as low a cost as possible. We do our best, but misses will happen. If you notice a problem that has been untreated by early July please feel free to call the County Engineers office and we will make every effort to remedy it.

A FEW REQUESTS FOR 2016 SEASON
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) landowners: please remember that your contract requires that any noxious weeds in your CRP fields be controlled. This requirement supersedes the prohibition of mowing and spraying in the contract, but contact the Farm Services Agency prior to taking action if noxious weeds are present. An ever increasing presence of Canada Thistle has been observed in many CRP fields. Please take time to look over your fields and take action as necessary.

For people who have requested no spraying zones: please remember that noxious weed control is still required in all areas of the right-of-way -- when you request a no spraying area you are agreeing to perform control yourself!

For our Ag community: while the advent of glyphosate resistant crops has provided a big assist in weed control in cropland, there has been a corresponding increase in instances of overspray affecting right-of-way vegetation negatively. Grasses killed = weedy mess. Please be aware where the end of your boom is. Also, please do not use the right-of-way to clean out your boom.

SOME DEFINITIONS
Annuals - are plants that go through their life cycle completely in one growing season. They germinate, grow, mature, and produce seed in the course of one season. They are generally strong and prolific seed producers since they only get one shot at it.

Biennials - are plants that germinate and grow the first growing season, stay alive but dormant over winter, and mature and produce seed the following season. These plants are also prolific seed producers.

Perennials - are plants that live many years. They generally put more energy in to vegetative growth (both above and below ground) and are somewhat less strong seed producers. Because they generally have strong root systems, they are often tougher to control.

Weed - is defined simply as a plant out of place. About any plant can meet that definition in a given situation.

Noxious weed - plants defined as such by Code 317. These are the only plants the Weed Commissioner is required to control.  See a listing and photos of noxious weeds here.

WEED ALERT - Teasel is an invasive plant that is considered a noxious weed in Iowa. As yet we have not seen this plant in Boone County, but it has been reported as close as Story and Webster Counties. We would like to keep Teasel from spreading into Boone County and encourage the public to report any suspected sighting to the Weed Commissioner. Teasel has a distinctive cone-like flowering head that usually has purple or white florets. It grows first as a ground level rosette that then shoots a spindly looking bolt up three to five feet high. This bolt will have multiple flowering heads and these flowers produce many seeds. Spread of this plant can be very rapid.  If you think you have seen this plant, please let us know. Some pictures of this plant may be found here.

WEED ALERT - Poison Hemlock is a noxious weed that is being observed more frequently in Boone County in 2013.  Poison Hemlock is a member of the carrot family that resembles and is sometimes mistaken for it's smaller cousin, Wild Carrot (aka Queen Anne's Lace).  While both are listed as noxious weeds in the Weed Law, Poison Hemlock is more concerning because, true to it's name, it is among the most poisonous plants in North America.  This plant is a tall growing (5 to 8 feet) biennial that forms numerous clusters of small white flowers.  It has hollow stems that are green with purple blotches and smells distinctly like parsley when crushed.  A picture of this plant may be found here.  Poison Hemlock may be controlled by regular mowing or the use of a number of different herbicides.  Always read the label on herbicides to determine what weeds are controlled, proper rates, and safe use instructions.

A FINAL THOUGHT
Control is the goal but that doesn’t mean elimination. Plants are good at what they do. To try to eliminate any given species is a practical impossibility, but it is possible to try to keep the populations of some of our more troublesome plants in check. That is our mission.

If you would like to make a no spray request in the right-of-way adjoining your property, you can fill out the No Spray Request Form and submit it to the Boone County Engineer's Office or email it to one of the addresses listed above. It then becomes the responsibility of the private landowner to control the noxious weeds in the right-of-way. No Spray signs can be picked up at the Boone County Engineer’s Office to mark desired no spray locations.

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