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Step up efforts against Indiana’s silent attackers

Hoosier Perspectives: The fight against invasive species must continue.

Tom J. Bechman

February 5, 2024

3 Min Read
Emily Finch standing in front of poison hemlock
FIGHT ON: Invasive species specialist Emily Finch is a veteran at fighting poison hemlock, growing behind her, and other invasive species. Courtesy of Emily Finch

What frustrated Mike Ponsford most when I visited his farm near Salem, Ind., in June? It wasn’t dry weather or even how hot it was that day. Instead, it was the poison hemlock growing along lanes we traveled to reach different fields.

“I spray and fight it, but it’s very difficult to get ahead of it,” Ponsford said. “It seems like it’s an epidemic in this part of Indiana.”

No one disagrees. For his part, Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed control specialist, made sure control measures for poison hemlock were included in the 2024 Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri Weed Control Guide. Invasive species headaches aren’t limited to Indiana.

For non-crop and pasture areas like Ponsford’s, the specialists recommend herbicides containing triclopyr. Find it under various names, including Remedy, Ultra and Garlon, or mixed with 2,4-D as Crossbow. Other herbicides with substantial activity when applied at proper times include dicamba, sold as Clarity and under other names, Escort XP, Cimarron Max and Curtail. Follow label directions and restrictions.

Step up the fight

Ray Chattin, Vincennes, Ind., farmer, sawmill operator and Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District supporter, led a charge over the past decade to get others to recognize the threat posed by invasive species. Dozens of species can take over timberland quickly, choking out desirable growth. Due to his efforts, Knox County is a leader in instituting programs to raise awareness about invasive species and in implementing workdays to physically remove them.

Other counties, particularly in southern and central Indiana, have followed suit. Through Chattin’s efforts, the Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management group formed, and Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas sprung up in multiple counties. Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service supports SICIM and CISMAs through cooperative agreements.

Poison hemlock growing in a field

Chattin helped lead the push for increased funding for Clean Water Indiana in 2023, successfully securing the first substantial increase in state funding for conservation in Indiana in over 20 years. Some of that funding supports battling invasive species through Clean Water Indiana grants.

The Tri-County Invasive Species Specialist Project in Martin, Daviess and Orange counties is a good example. It was funded through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture by a Clean Water Indiana grant. Emily Finch will lead the fight against honeysuckle, autumn olive, poison hemlock and other invasives.

Finch did the same work in Martin, Daviess and Dubois counties under previous grants from 2019 through 2023. This time, Orange County will benefit from her expertise as well.

Commit all the way

Here’s the catch. While this newly funded effort is great, it isn’t permanent. It has an expiration date like the previous grants that funded Finch’s work. Chattin and others believe more full-time specialists are needed statewide, battling these silent enemies day in and day out.

Farmers like Mike Ponsford are more than willing to do their part. But they deserve support. They need people telling them what to try next when current efforts aren’t gaining the upper hand.

From what we saw from the seat of Ponsford’s UTV last summer, there is more work to be done. It will take commitment at the local, state and federal levels to assist landowners in taking back their land from invasive invaders.

Read more about:

Invasive Species

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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