Landowners: now is the time to control invasive weed, common mullein

Common mullein is a problematic weed, and an increasingly growing problem for Perkins County. 

A group of citizens attended a meeting of the Perkins County Board of Commissioners last fall asking for some help in controlling this growing weed. These farmers asked if anything could be done to help control or eradicate this weed. The commissioners were asked to consider the matter and to investigate if common mullein could be added to the noxious weed list.

After researching the matter with County Weed Superintendent Mike Dolezal, it was found that it would be costly for the county to pursue placing this troublesome weed on the county noxious weed list. 

“We want to find other ways to deal with this before trying to explore putting this on a noxious weed list,” commented County Commissioner Steve Tucker. “It is our desire that we can handle these weeds as responsible landowners.”

Landowners and tenants are being asked to control this invasive species of weed. Common mullein appears across the grassed areas in the county—CRP acres, road ditches, right of ways, and unfarmed grass areas is where it is most prevalent.

Common mullein is a biennial plant that reproduces only by seeds, but it is a prolific seed producer. The taproot of this species can access soil moisture from a deeper profile at a much better rate than fibrous roots of pasture grasses, giving it a competitive advantage, especially in dry years. 

The problem comes with the uncontrolled plants and the thousands of seeds that are produced. The prolific seed production from one plant has exploded its population across the county. 

Control

The best strategy is to control common mullein while the population density is low. Plant numbers can easily expand from a few to hundreds per acre in just a couple years.

Mechanical control—Sparse populations can be controlled by mechanical removal using a spade or shovel in late April and early May. Individual plants can be dug out or cut just at the soil surfaces as long as the whole rosette is removed. Single mowing of new 1-2 foot tall plants can reduce population and seed production for the season, especially in dry years.

Chemical control—Herbicides also can be effective in providing season long control; however, be aware that the thick woolly coat of hairs on the leaves can reduce herbicide uptake and control.

Apply herbicide when the rosette has 6-12 leaves and before the stem starts to grow, which is usually in May. Make sure to use enough of an additive such as crop oil at 1-2 quarts/acre to help the herbicide penetrate the thick woolly coat.

The county board is asking all landowners to inspect their property, and be aware of the weed and the damage it could potentially bring. All owners who have discovered the weed, now is the time to be active in getting it controlled. If the problem continues, common mullein will have to be added to the noxious weed list and control measures will have to be implemented. 

For more information on the common mullein species and control methods, contact Dolezal, county weed superintendent, at 308-352-4799.

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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