Crook County Weed and Pest

Submitted by Andrew Litzel Supervisor, Crook County Weed and Pest

Looking back on 2017, we had a very successful season at the Crook County Weed and Pest. We improved on almost all facets of our programs, from highways to county roads and leafy spurge spraying as well.

Our noxious weed highway spraying saw the most dramatic improvement from last year. Steve Geis, with Geis Spraying, was in his second year of the contract and still licking his wounds from last year’s clean-up job.

It was apparent early that he had done an excellent job last year; seeing very few weeds showing up where there were multiple acres prior. There were a few areas that the grass was stunted from the combination of extremely dry weather and Tordon applications.

However, there were few to no weeds re-infesting and the stunted areas re-grew grass as the summer progressed; showing a “win” in my mind. The overall acreage, as well as hours decreased dramatically.

The acres were down to 441 acres, as compared to 860 last year; a difference of 419 acres, or 49 percent! The hours were down from 359 to 281, a reduction of 78 hours spent treating.

Our chemical cost was only $6386.34, as compared to $14,039.69 last year; a savings of $7653.35 or 55 percent! I am very pleased with the direction our highway spraying is going, and excited (and relieved) to have Steve for one more year.

Although the weed and pest did not contract them, there were some bad applications done on the bareground and broadleaf spraying on the highways; done by Tiger Tree out of Laramie. There are a handful of areas where there are a few to many trees that were affected by their spraying.

One area in particular, almost a 150-yard gallery of cottonwood trees were burnt on Highway 116, approximately seven miles south of Sundance. An inspector from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture accompanied me to inspect locations and take samples and the results came back positive for a bare-ground herbicide. At this point, we are unsure if the trees will recuperate from the applications but I remain hopeful.

Our county road spraying also saw improvements. We covered all 1360 road miles again and treated 282 acres, compared to 512 last year; down 230 acres and 45 percent. We saw a large influx of Scotch thistle throughout the entire county. Our leafy spurge is improving drastically along roadways and we are getting a handle on the mullein, bindweed and houndstongue; though they are all still very prevalent.

I once again hired four seasonal sprayers this year to do the county roads. Although there was only one returning from last year, the crew did an excellent job and caught on very fast.

All but one passed their commercial licensing and it was apparent that they were very intelligent kids. I hope to get them all back again next summer.

Our private land leafy spurge spraying continues to grow in popularity. I gained eight new landowners who wanted me to spray their spurge. The addition of these blocks in a large area that are being treated with the exception of only a few landowners. For the landowners that didn’t have me spray, I released bio-control in hopes of it slowing the spread back to their neighbors.

To date, I have sprayed 385 acres so far on private and I will continue to spray into the fall. I treated part of a large section of state land this spring, and plan to hit the rest this fall.

I treated 210 acres this spring, and will continue to spray many acres for years. In all, I sprayed an estimate of 2520 gallons on spurge on State land alone.

After four years of aerial treating in Left Creek drainage for spurge, I am giving it a break. I have interest in an outlier drainage south of Keyhole Lake, Wind Creek, that is wall-to-wall with spurge, with very little infestation in areas surrounding. I plan on hitting it aerially this upcoming spring or fall and hope to get a handle on it.

With the better moisture we had this year, we were very busy in the office selling chemical. We sold pallet after pallet of everything from herbicides for rangeland spraying, to glyphosate on crops, to alfalfa weevil spray.

I also had several landowners on the west end of the county with bad infestations of bulbous bluegrass in their alfalfa (thanks Campbell County)! I am seeing a good number of people who are planting cover crops and doing burn-down treatments with not only glyphosate, but also 2,4-D and Dicamba; so I am curious to see how that goes.

I only certified three fields of alfalfa/grass this year weed-free, but I personally saw a huge increase in areas cut for hay as compared to last year which was good to see.

We are looking forward to a productive 2018 season. We will have new projects treating noxious weeds on the forest service roads and campgrounds. We also plan to continue our existing programs on highways, spurge, and county roads.

At the end of 2017, Crook County Weed and Pest added two species to our county declared noxious weed list: common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) and buffalobur (Solanum rostratum). These species can now be treated utilizing our 60 percent herbicide cost-share program.

Both of these species have presented an invasive nature within the county. Both are readily found along our county roads, and are creeping into private lands. Each species has “burs” and present a harm to livestock and forage production.

Lastly, our “special management program” currently consists of Leafy Spurge and Spotted Knapweed. This special management programs enables the weed and pest to draw a second mill levy for controlling these species.

Under current rules and regulations, leafy spurge and one other species are allowed to be controlled under this mill levy. Leafy spurge will be a species that will always be the top priority in Crook County, however, the Weed and Pest is considering a change of the second species that will be designated under special management because of the lack of interest in spotted knapweed control.

Among the list of species currently being considered are: prairie dogs, whitetop (hoary cress) and houndstongue. If you have any input on weeds to consider, selecting from the noxious weeds currently on the Wyoming State Designated list or Crook County Declared list, please feel free to let us know and we will discuss them at our board meetings.

This is nothing that is an urgent or pressing need, but we feel that input from county residents is a priority to us. Everyone is always welcome to come in and pick our brains about weed or pest problems, herbicide recommendations, or anything you have questions about.