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Noxious weeds an environmental threat
County department stays busy treating invasive plants
county weed report
Pictured is the Barton County Weed Department office on south Morton in Great Bend. The County Commission Monday heard a report on noxious weed control.

Many people may not realize it, but weeds are a serious problem, Barton County Assistant Noxious Weed Director Jay Burns told county commissioners Monday morning. He was there to give the annual Noxious Weed Eradication Progress Report.  

“Noxious weeds are one of the greatest threats to the Kansas environment,” Burns said. “They displace native plant species, interfere with the production of agricultural crops, increase erosion, destroy wildlife habitat and decrease property values.”

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is responsible for laws aiding in the control and management of noxious and invasive weeds in Kansas, he said. As such, the KDA requires Kansas counties to submit an Annual Noxious Weed Eradication Progress Report.   

According to the document:

• The department spent $415,554.92 on herbicides and $148,584.86 on the labor needed to apply them in 2019. However,it also generated $371,355.25 in the sales of chemicals used to treat non-county land.

The county sells the chemicals on a cost-share basis with landowners as an incentive for them to treat their land.

• There are an estimated 77,130 acres of noxious weeds in Barton County. Of those, 69,210 are private land, 2,490 are county, 3,000 are township, 1,424 are state and 1,005 are city.

These numbers are determined by a state-mandated survey conducted by department personnel, Burns said.

• The department treated 61,721.8 acres in 2019. Of those, 59,631.6 are private land, 87 are county, 291.3 are township, 1,134.5 are state and 577.4 are city.

These numbers included acres treated by department personnel and by the landowners.

• Weeds treated included bur ragweed, field bindweed, Johnsongrass and musk thistle.

• The report also details land use, how many acres of each weed were treated, and who owned those acres. The number or gallons of each chemical was noted as well.

In related items, the commission:

• Approved the county agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation to treat noxious weeds. 

The Kansas Department of Transportation secretary has submitted an agreement to treat noxious weeds on KDOT rights-of-way. Included in the contract is a price of $24 per hour for an operator and $51 per hour for the spray vehicles.  Also detailed is how the work shall be recorded and what chemicals may be used, Burns said.  

The total cost of $75 per hour is unchanged from last year and comparable to what other counties charge, Burns said.

 • Approved the 2020 noxious weed spraying rates.

The Kansas Noxious Weed Law requires all persons who own or supervise land in Kansas to control and eradicate all weeds declared noxious by legislative action. To assist citizens, the Noxious Weed Department has provided spraying services at the rate of $5.50 per acre.  

However, in order to offset maintenance and repair costs to application equipment, it was suggested that the rate be increased to $6 per acre, Burns said. The rate was last increased in 2018 when it went up 75 cents. 

As an example, Burns said his department spent almost $18,000 on maintenance last year. With between 6-7,000 private acres being treated, the latest half-dollar hike will bring in an additional $3,500, the cost of just one large tire for a spraying rig.

Barton County provides noxious weed applications to cities, townships, the state, private landowners and county lands.  Non-noxious weed control include chemical mowing and bare ground applications for the county as well as brush control measures for townships.  

Under state law, the county levies a tax levy each year, based on the annual weed survey, for this work. The county also pays the costs of controlling weeds on county lands. 

Noxious weeds controlled by the county and listed on the Noxious Weed Department’s website include:

• Field bindweed

• Musk thistle

• Bur ragweed

• Johnson grass

• Serisea lespedeza

• Russian knapweed

• Quack grass

• Leafy spurge

• Hoary cress

• Kudzu

• Multiflora rose

• Pignut

• Canada thistle

• Bull thistle