BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – After several presentations on the subject, county supervisors have pulled $200,000 from preliminary budgets for a roadside vegetation program aimed at rekindling the native plants on county roadsides.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, funding for the project was pulled after Supervisor Don Hunold said he would like to get a group of those in the know together to set a plan for the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget.
Donnellson resident Margo Sprenger has been spearheading the effort to try and keep some native Iowa plants growing along the roadside and reduce the mowing so deep into the ditches in Lee County.
The program was headed to the Lee County Conservation Board to staff and administrate. Hunold said he would like to get Sprenger, Lee County Conservation Director Tom Buckley, County Engineer Ernie Steffensmeier, who also oversees the secondary roads department for the county, and a few others together to create a plan going forward.
Sprenger said she was unhappy with the decision but indicated she’s getting some support from the county in the interim.
“I’m really disappointed,” she said. “But I will say Ernie has been really good about working with me and saying we can do quite a bit to not mow a lot of what we mowed last year.”
“He’s shown interest in looking at staying in that five to eight foot range off the roadway and that might be the best we can do this year. Hopefully there were will be people that will tell me about these prairie remnants around the county. If we inform the people doing the mowing, they’ve been good about saving some of those areas.
Supervisor Ron Fedler also brought a news article about a weed called Palmer Ameranth that is scaring the heck out of county farmers.
According to the Iowa State University Extension office, the weed can potentially have a devastating effect on soybean and corn yields.
“The initial Palmer amaranth infestations in Iowa were found in crop fields associated with equipment and inputs from outside of the state. More recently, Palmer amaranth has been found on ground set aside for conservation practices. The weed most likely will not persist in these new locations being established for conservation habitat since the Palmer amaranth should be crowded out once native, perennial vegetation is established. The concern, however, is that until the perennial plants become established, Palmer amaranth may produce enough seed to begin moving into neighboring corn and soybean fields, according to the extension’s website.
Hunold took it a step further saying that, left uncontrolled, that could take a farmer’s field in about three years.
“You have to kill it before it gets 4″ tall. If you don’t you have to actually hoe it out of the fields. That plant will seed a half million seed,” he said. If it gets in the ditches we’re not going to spray it or mow it every week that’s the only way to kill it. So if we have to go walk that out of the ditches, that’s gonna be a problem,” Hunold said.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said he had a report from the University of Purdue that indicates if left uncontrolled it could hurt soybean yields by 79% and corn by 91%.
“Basically you can’t kill it so the way to control it is to cut before it gets to seed. If it’s left to grow in the ditches one plant can produce a half million seeds. That’s amazing to me and it’s resistant to spray. It’s pretty scary,” Fedler said.
“We’re not mandated by the state to (have the program), especially if this is going to be problematic going forward,” Pflug said.