For Once, I Say Bring On The Herbicide!

What?! Isn’t this an organic gardening blog?

Yes of course–and I’m not talking about using herbicide in my yard. When we must, we use iron phosphate.

I’m referring to an editorial I read recently in my local paper, the Hartford Courant. The writer was decrying the use of herbicides along the highways. A version of that letter from the Courant’s online site can be read here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done entirely too much driving lately. As it happened, the day that letter appeared, I had to take a north/south trip across the state. So to confirm my suspicions about what was happening, I tried to glance out the window every time I saw dead brown foliage along the roadside.

Sure enough, what was–or had been–growing there was that noxious invasive plant, Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica).

Japanese knotweed, for those lucky enough not to have encountered it, is one of those invasive plants that will take over quite quickly. I’ve seen it coming up through asphalt.

The state, in this case, is being quite a good steward* in managing its grassy verges by blasting the knotweed with herbicide. The letter writer, while good-intentioned, unfortunately has no idea of the destructive effect of invasive plants in general or this particular plant, it seems.

And while the true discourse on the destruction that invasive plants are wreaking on our ecosystems is well beyond this post (or any series of posts) suffice it to say that invasives choke out native vegetation that our wildlife need to survive.

And while we certainly do not want wildlife close to the highway, unfortunately, the invasives don’t stay put. I think everyone has seen examples of them running throughout the forests, creating monocultures of inedible or barely edible plant life for our wildlife. Habitat destruction is bad enough as it is–we don’t need the competition from invasive plants (which we already have in droves!)

So while I surely applaud this letter writer’s sentiment–who doesn’t enjoy a lovely view while driving? I say let’s keep killing the invasive plants–and if we must, let’s use herbicide to do it!

*Most of the town land trusts in our state try to manage invasives with “pulling parties” and not with herbicides. I suspect the state has decided that a better use of its limited manpower is to use herbicides–and I’m not sure I disagree, particularly when these are along interstate highways, where pulling parties would require that the shoulder be shut down to assure the safety of the workers.

Also, some of these areas of knotweed are literally miles in length. Pulling would be fairly impractical–and drivers would lose their minds sitting in traffic jams watching state employees pull “weeds.”

2 thoughts on “For Once, I Say Bring On The Herbicide!

  1. bridget September 4, 2013 / 3:38 pm

    Japanese Knotweed is becoming a real problem here in north-west Ireland. It’s spreading rapidly and the local Council is doing absolutely nothing about it. At least yours are trying to control it.

  2. gardendaze September 5, 2013 / 8:31 am

    Yes, we’ve gotten to the party late but at least we’ve arrived. I’ve read statistics that say invasives cost the US something like 25 billion dollars in damage every year. A lot of good could have been done with that money.

    And even I will condone the use of herbicide at this time of year, when the plants can take it down to the roots and it is likely to kill them. It’s so much more effective for large scale “invasions” like knotweed, and for our public lands.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


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