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Thorny issue tackled for land owners: Program designed to control pesky weed

Program designed to control pesky weed

Visalia, CA - Its name sounds elegant and exotic: Centaurea solstitialis L. and when it’s in bloom its bright yellow color is eye catching.

But this plant has the power of great destruction. Commonly known as Yellow Starthistle, it crowds out native species, degrades rangeland, alters water cycles and is toxic to horses.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Yellow Starthistle is one of the most ecologically and economically damaging invasive plants in California.

“Yellow Starthistle is bad for biodiversity and will take over native vegetation,” says Andrew Isner, Weed Management Area Coordinator for Tulare County. “It’s also known to change soil chemistry and doesn’t allow native plants to be as productive.”

Yellow Starthistle is a native of Eurasia and was introduced to California around 1850 via South America. Reports now show the weed invades nearly 12 million acres throughout the state.

With a goal toward controlling this noxious weed, the Tulare County Weed Management Area is offering land owners some help. “Right now we’re offering a cost- share chemical treatment, it’s an herbicide application particularly for small ranchettes,” says Isner. “Essentially we buy chemical and do the spraying and participating landowners share the cost.”

There are no grazing restrictions so animals don’t have to be moved when spraying takes place. This cost-share program has been going on for 9 years and according to Isner has kept the thistle away from key areas of concern. “We’re wanting to keep the yellow star from getting into the foothills, including sensitive areas like Sequoia National Park and Giant Sequoia National Monument.

The Tulare County Weed Management Area is charging a minimum of $50 for the first one to three acres and $15 per acre for more than three acres.

In 2011, 58 people took part in the program with 382 acres sprayed.

According to Isner, spray timing is key to eradication. “Yellow Starthistle puts out 30 thousand seeds per plant so the problem is, if you don’t kill the plant before it produces seed you’re going to have regrowth the following year in excessive numbers.”

Last year The Tulare County Weed Management Area sprayed until the middle of June so there’s still time left for landowners to get involved in the program.

UC Cooperative Extension-Tulare County, 559-685-3319

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