Whitetop weed invades again | SteamboatToday.com

Whitetop weed invades again

Margaret Hair

Whitetop is a noxious weed that has been particularly prevalent this spring in Routt County. County officials urge landowners to help control the weed.

— It’s invasive, and it erases everything in its path. It has pretty flowers, but it poses problems to gardeners and ranchers.

Whitetop, a noxious weed in the mustard family, has gone into full bloom on Routt County lands, driving out other vegetation and potentially decreasing the amount of grazing land available to livestock.

“Whitetop is really a serious, serious problem,” said Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance. “For years and years, everybody tried to take care of it, but then it just got so far out of hand that it can’t be controlled. It’s one of those weeds that’s getting a hold on us.”

Because it spreads quickly and easily, whitetop can drive out competing vegetation if it is not controlled. Daughenbaugh said she has noticed more whitetop than normal this year on ranchlands and has seen a sharp increase in its population in Steamboat Springs.

Routt County Extension Agent CJ Mucklow said it is “the worst invasive weed in Routt County.”

“Originally, we were concerned about it because nothing eats it, so it decreased the pasture carrying capacity for the stock,” Mucklow said. The Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service helps to control the weed outside of city limits, but a scarcity of herbicides labeled for lawn use makes that effort more difficult in town.

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There are some stronger products with Dicamba as an active ingredient that can help get rid of whitetop, such as Weed B Gon Max, Mucklow said. Whitetop is one of nine noxious weeds included in the Routt County Weed Department’s weed plan, and managing it is required on county lands. Mucklow said herbicides are the most effective method of managing the weed.

“Pulling can work, but it’s got deep roots, so you’ve really got to be religious about pulling to make it effective,” he said.

Given Routt County’s high altitude and short growing season, maximizing land use by preventing weed takeover is crucial to maintaining ranchlands, Mucklow said. Recognizing the weed and getting rid of it immediately are key to keeping it at bay and to slow the increase Mucklow and Daughenbaugh have noticed.

“I know it hasn’t gotten better,” Mucklow said. “Slowly but surely, in and around Steamboat Springs, it’s probably gotten worse than it was 10 years ago.”

– To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com

About whitetop

– How to spot it: Whitetop is a mustard weed, with small white flowers on the stems and leaves with serrated edges.

– Why it’s a problem: Once whitetop starts growing on a piece of land, it pushes everything else off, including grasses that feed livestock and wildlife.

– How to get rid of it: Some herbicides work, but many of them are not sold for lawn use. Weed B Gon Max is one of the more effective options. Pulling the weed is only recommended for younger plants.

– Nine weeds require management in Routt County: leafy spurge, diffuse knapweed, spotted knapweed, Russian knapweed, whitetop, Dalmatian toadflax, yellow toadflax, meadow knapweed and houndstongue.

Source: Routt County Weed Department Web site, http://www.co.routt.co.u…