July 7, 2020 - It is Really About Respecting and Preserving Our Natural Environment
Diseases, pests and weeds are the most costly and significant threat to both agricultural productivity and environmental biodiversity. They negatively affect the quality and quantity of agriculture and horticulture and threaten our natural ecosystems.
As we reach mid-summer, many invasive weed species have already set seed, ready to be transferred to new locations via human and animal activity, most often unbeknown to the carriers.
The majority of weed and pest transfer occurs because of summer activities. And while control has been traditionally focused on the agricultural industry, the spread of invasive species involves all aspects of human activity.
Often overlooked, cars, trucks, motorbikes, ATVs, boats, earthmoving equipment and even firewood are common carriers of invasive species. Contaminated soil and plant and animal material can easily lodge in a variety of locations on vehicles, equipment, footwear, clothing and pets.
When one realizes that virtually any area of the globe can be reached within 72 hours it is easy to understand why new invasive species continue to be introduced into areas where they have no natural predators or competition.
Avoiding weed, disease and pest spread is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent loss of habitat and biodiversity while saving time, money and irreversible damage.
The first step in taking personal responsibility begins with the awareness that human activities are a vector for spread. The second step is achieved through self-education as to the pests, diseases or weed species that may be encountered during any given activity.
Some may argue that weeds are everywhere, so why bother worrying about them. By doing our part to reduce spread, we become part of the solution and not part of the problem. A lack of awareness is hardly acceptable in today’s information age where details may be found at the tip of a finger.
Aside from agricultural damage, one of the hardest hit areas in Clearwater County is the west country where invasive species are seriously impacting riparian areas. Frequently used as travel corridors and campsites, creeks, rivers, wetlands and lakes often have the highest biodiversity within an ecosystem.
When it comes to being part of the solution, making a visual inspection of anything that could be a carrier should become standard practice, especially after leaving an infested site. Begin by checking all footwear and clothing, pets, backpacks, ATVs, UTVs, trailers and campers.
Agriculturally, most farmers are aware of a hygiene problem but on occasion, in the rush to get the job done, may overlook the ramifications of neglecting to clean off equipment. Still others view machinery hygiene as a fall chore, while weeds and pests are carried from field to field inadvertently throughout the growing season.
It is not uncommon to see new infestations appear at the entrance to fields where debris is deposited as equipment comes off the road. Clubroot of canola is a growing example of poor machinery hygiene, as this pest steadily creeps into Clearwater County from our northern and eastern boundaries.
Some effective cleaning options include washing, air pressure, vacuuming and physical removal. It is not always possible to wash equipment on site but even a portable pressurized spray tank can be used to clear hard to reach areas, especially when equipment is dry.
Portable vacuums offer a quick and easy way to clean out cabs. Carrying a brush and or broom and a scraper will help to remove larger deposits in more accessible areas.
Machinery should be cleaned from the top down and include the undercarriage, springs, axles and tires. Whenever possible, detergents should be used to remove grease, dirt and mud.
Footwear should also be cleaned along with socks and clothing. Using the same site for cleaning will allow for monitoring of volunteer weed growth which can be easily controlled.
Contaminated material should be disposed of in a manner that ensures all removed weeds, seeds and pests will not grow or continue to spread.
Establishing management practices that reduce the spread of invasive species is everyone’s responsibility. It is the environment and agriculture that ultimately suffer because of poor hygiene that allows for the transfer of invasive species.
For more specific details on potential pest, disease or weed problems in given areas, please feel free to call Agriculture and Community Services at 403-845-4444.
- Rural Beautification Award Nominations: It is that time of year again! Landowners who have put in the extra effort to make their properties look outstanding should be recognized for their efforts. If you see an exceptional yard in the county, or know of friends, family or neighbors that deserve an award, call Agriculture and Community Services at 403-845-4444. Nominations close July 24, 2020.
- 10% Herbicide Discount: In lieu of the cancelled weed workshops this spring, Clearwater County residents can still qualify for a discount on range and pasture herbicides by filling out the questionnaire at www.clearwatercounty.ca/p/herbicide-discount, or search the County website and follow the links.
- Caring for my Land Program:Do you have any watershed friendly projects in mind? Projects that help protect surface water will be considered, some examples include planting trees as a buffer, riparian fencing, beaver co-existence structures, watering livestock away from a creek or slough or seeding deep-rooted perennial grasses in an erosion prone area. The Caring for my Land program offers 50-50 cost shared funding – up to $5,000. For more information, call Agriculture and Community Services at 403-845-4444.