Officials asking for help to battle cogongrass ‘invasion’
ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — State officials are asking for the public’s help in stopping the spread of cogongrass, a weed that has invaded 62 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.
The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce-Bureau of Plant Industry is asking anyone who spots this invasive grass to report the sighting by calling (662) 325-3390.
The problem is severe enough that a Mississippi Forestry Commission assistance program is available in 19 counties to help landowners get rid of the weed.
According to the Mississippi Forestry Commission, cogongrass came from Southeast Asia and was introduced to the United States in 1911 near Mobile, Ala. It arrived in Mississippi before 1920 as a forage crop but later was found to be unsuitable as forage. It spreads rapidly and displaces desirable vegetation.
Cogongrass looks very similar to many other kinds of grasses, but can be identified by its circular growth pattern and unique rhizome, or root, structure. A useful identification guide created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service and the University of Georgia is online at www.cogongrass.org.
Landowners can take a sample or a digital photo of suspected cogongrass to the local Extension Service office for help identifying the weed.
John Byrd, Mississippi State University Extension Service weed scientist, said, “We are evaluating management systems using some new herbicides that we think will allow selective control of cogongrass in bahiagrass systems. We also have identified herbicides that selectively control cogongrass in pines.”
Other research has found a highly effective, non-chemical control method for cogongrass.
“You can get rid of cogongrass if you rototill it three times a year for two years using the tiller on the back of a tractor,” Byrd said.
Once cogongrass is identified, landowners are urged to get rid of it. Animals do not feed on it, so it is not controlled with grazing.
The counties where landowner assistance is available for the fight against cogongrass are Wayne, Rankin, Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Clarke, Newton, Scott, Attala, Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Webster, Noxubee, Winston, Leake, Neshoba, Kemper and Lauderdale. Information on this program is available online at www.mfc.ms.gov/fh_cogongrass.htm or by calling (877) 708-7651.
Byrd said a congressional decision eliminated this earmark in the federal budget. There will be no more dollars headed to Mississippi directed toward landowner assistance programs once the MFC money has been spent.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission has a wealth of information on this weed available at www.mfc.ms.gov/.
Source: Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
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