The Fieldman’s Files-Thistles are weeds too!

Normand Boulet, CCA
Agricultural Fieldman

I was recently “taken to task” about a comment I (sort of) made in one of my recent articles.

I have no problems at all with people expressing their concerns with something I write because a) there is no way everyone will ever agree with everything I say, write or do and b) it shows some people read the articles I write, and that makes me happy.

In the article, I kind of impugned that thistles and thistle control are not important.

The point I was trying to make is not that they aren’t an important weed, they are and all producers not only should do what they can to control them, the Weed Control Act says they have to.

Agricultural producers know that if they give a foothold to a tenacious and aggressive plant like Canada and Perennial sow thistle they will spread, outcompete their crops and cost them money.

So anyone who takes the time to do spot spraying or mowing around their land to reduce seed spread and try to control them should be applauded, it’s a benefit to everyone who lives in the area.

The point I tried to make was that relative to something like Scentless chamomile, the thistles take a back seat for me and the other weed inspectors.

We know of approx. 200 instances of Scentless chamomile in the M.D., we are actively working with, cajoling, encouraging and when necessary, pushing landowners to keep them from going to seed. Chamomile spreads only by seed so picking the plants and incinerating them prevents seed from being added to the seed bank, and continuing the infestation.

Spraying the seedlings and rosettes pre-bloom is effective, especially if a selective herbicide is used to encourage grass competition.

We might visit a Chamomile site a dozen times during the growing season to ensure no seed set takes place. I don’t know how many staff members the M.D. would need to give thistles that kind of attention, but I’m thinking it’s enough that your taxes would go up, and we would be even less welcomed on your property than we already are.

Thistle control is an ongoing battle for everyone; in a wet and hot year like this weeds really go to town.

I know our ditches are not in great shape this year, we are still actively spraying and mowing but water in the ditches really hampers our efforts to do either of those things.

We are concentrating our spraying efforts on the area that is not supposed to have a full mowing cut this year, and we’re targeting weeds like toadflax and white cockle primarily because they too are tenacious and we don’t have as much as we do thistle – so we’re trying to keep them at bay.

Harvest is upon us and if you are trying to decide if you should or should not do pre-harvest glyphosate on your crop; let me assure you that for thistle control, this is the time of year to hit them.

Most perennial and biennial plants are getting ready for winter right now, so a fall systemic herbicide application gets to the root and does the most damage.

We never know if the weather post-harvest will allow us to get another chance at them.

Best of luck with harvest.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, if you have questions comments or concerns about my articles, or what the Ag Services Department is doing, contact me.

Normand Boulet, CCA

Agricultural Fieldman 780-837-0043


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