September 15, 2020 - 8:00am -- lehman.488@osu.edu

All weeds are problematic. Last week, weeds in pastures or hay fields were the focus, but they show up everywhere. Simply put, weeds are any plants found growing in an unintended or undesirable location. Some weeds are simply unsightly, others may seem like a plague. Noxious weeds though are ones that cause serious issues for agricultural systems, damage ecosystems, or are dangerous to people and/or animals. The Ohio Department of Agriculture maintains a list of these plants in our state. To go along with that list, The Ohio State University published the book “Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio” to aid in spotting and learning more about these plants.

ODA’s current list include several that may be familiar: canada thistle, poison hemlock, cressleaf groundsel, marestail, palmer amaranth, bindweeds, to name a few. Of course, no one wants these on their property, but in reality, they are likely to show up near you at some point or another.

Ellen Essman, an Agricultural Law specialist with OSU, recently wrote about the landowner’s responsibility when noxious weeds are present on the property. For those living outside a municipality, neighbors or others can report the presence of noxious weeds on a property to the local township trustees. Inside municipalities, complaints would normally be filed with the city council.

The trustees must then notify the landowner of the complaint. Within 5 days of receiving the letter, the landowner must either destroy the plants or explain why the plants do not need destroyed. If the trustees receive no response, they must find a way to destroy the weeds and then the county auditor will determine the cost to the landowner.

A slightly different scenario plays out if the noxious weeds are on a fencerow or property line. The neighbor must request that weeds on the adjacent owner’s land be cut down. The landowner with the weeds has 10 days to comply before the neighbor may call the township trustees. The trustees will then assess the situation to determine the necessity of action. Again, the trustees may hire someone to remove the weeds and the landowner is financially responsible.

Regular mowing or trimming along property and fence lines can greatly reduce the presence of weeds. Before using any chemical control options in these areas, read the label and discuss your plan with your neighbor before application- this is simple courtesy.

If noxious weeds were easy to control, they would not be a problem. Some of those listed are already resistant to many chemical herbicides. When a weed species is first noticed on a property is the ideal time to address the issue. Some noxious weeds could be quickly pulled or dug up and discarded before they begin to spread. However, note that several noxious weeds are included in the “dangerous to humans” category. Before handling an unknown weed, do some research. Some can cause skin burns or have spines/hairs that can cause pain or a rash. Gloves are a recommended precaution.

In agronomic and horticulture crops, persistent or noxious weed populations can cause economic loss due to reduced yield or with certain weed species, livestock fatality. A one-size-fits-all approach does not exist. Some rely on chemicals, others tillage, another may focus on crop rotations including cover crops, and still others use more creative methods like burning or electric weed control. If the method does not work year after year, change it up or try using more than one tactic to manage your weeds. See a field that looks weed-free? Consider stopping by and asking the owner what he does. Maybe you will make a new friend too!

In short, monitor your property for weeds, especially noxious weeds, and do your best to remove them in a timely manner. This avoids awkward conversations and reduces the production of additional weed seeds. Maintaining a good relationship with your neighbor has many benefits and can spare everyone a lot of grief. Tensions are high right now between Covid-19, racial injustice, and politics all added on top of the everyday problems that we face. We can choose to take our frustrations out on our neighbors and friends, or we can choose the high road.

Remember, the golden rule is to “treat others the way that you want to be treated” not “treat others as they have treated you.”

Matthew Nussbaum is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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