WAHOO – Saunders County Weed Superintendent Ed Sladky uses a land, sea and air assault when exterminating the 12 species of noxious weeds across Saunders County.
Sladky is responsible for patrolling the 64 miles of Platte River bank and 760 square miles of Saunders County looking for the weeds.
“There are 12 on the list, but we’re working hard on Phragmites and Purple Loosestrife now,” Sladky said.
Phragmites and Purple Loosestrife are primarily fought on the waterfront.
This fight employs the use of a helicopter or Argo eight-wheeled amphibious all-terrain vehicle to reach the weeds and spray them with an aquatic herbicide.
“These two weeds could eventually choke out a stream and divert water a different direction,” he said.
Not only could the hardy weeds divert a stream, but that same effect takes its toll on the larger Platte River and has an effect on flooding by not allowing water to stay in its banks, Sladky said.
All 12 weeds on Nebraska’s noxious weed list are imports from other countries and have no natural way to stay in check, Sladky said.
People used to use many of them as ornamental grasses or soil stabilizers.
“Years ago, you could buy Purple Loosestrife at the store,” Sladky said.
“We had to call stores and tell them they couldn’t sell it anymore.”
The fight against these noxious weeds is a cooperative effort.
Land owners are responsible to kill noxious weeds on their property, but the expense and effort necessary can be burdensome.
In cooperation with natural resource districts, Saunders County is one of 10 that make up the Lower Platte Weed Management Area.
This group works together to get grant dollars to pay for items like chemicals, helicopters, airboats and the Argo that are used to fight along the rivers.
This past July, a helicopter survey was done along the river and GPS coordinates were marked where noxious weeds were seen.
“We notify the land owners and ask if they want to join in paying for the cost,” Sladky said.
The land owner’s cost is a 50-50 cost chare with the Lower Platte Weed Management Area, but allows for the group to utilize all the weapons at their disposal to fight the weeds.
The cost would be much higher if land owners did not utilize the resources of the group, Sladky said.
If found along inland ditches, Sladky said his office offers suggestions for controls to take.
“A lot of what I do is education,” Sladky said.
What some land owners don’t know is that they are responsible to the middle of the road and the middle of the river along their property, he said.
Phragmites is a new enough weed to the area that many land owners might not recognize it as such or even look for it inland, he said.
It might grow in an area and cover 100 square feet or be in just one small clump.
“But I always say one plant is too many,” Sladky said.
In addition to fighting along the water, Leafy Spurge and Musk Thistle grow in pastures and thin out grazing grasses.
“This makes for poorer grazing for livestock,” he said.
One plant of Musk Thistle can produce 15,000 seeds.
Three of Nebraska’s 12 noxious have not yet been spotted in Saunders County.
They are Japanese Knotweed, Giant Knotweed and Spotted Knapweed.
The remaining weeds are Canada Thistle, Plumeless Thistle, Diffuse Knapweed, Saltcedar and Sericea Lespedeza.
For more information about Nebraska’s noxious weeds, including pictures of the weeds, visit neweed.org or contact Sladky at 402-443-8171.