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purple loosetrife olyasolodenko/getty images
LIMITING LOOSESTRIFE: Choosing the right herbicide for the job and practicing patience and persistence were key to controlling loosestrife.

Controlling invasive perennial weeds takes persistence

Ten years of Nebraska research shows repeated treatments to control weeds like purple loosestrife.

By Stevan Knezevic and O. Adewale Osipitan

It is well-known that herbicides can manage perennial invasive weed species. However, a single application of most herbicides provides only short-term efficacy (one- or two-year suppression). These perennials are not easily managed with one application because they propagate by multiple means, including seeds and perennial roots (rhizomes, stolones and crowns). The secondary buds of these plants can sprout new shoots, even after initial herbicide damage.

To examine what's needed to achieve complete control, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers conducted a 10-year herbicide efficacy study with a pilot species, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.). Purple loosestrife is an invasive weed introduced from Eurasia to North America in the early 1880s. It has now become widespread in the U.S., reducing the biodiversity of riparian areas across Nebraska and elsewhere in the U.S. In 2001, purple loosestrife was declared a noxious species in Nebraska as it poses a serious threat to the economic, social and aesthetic well-being of the state's landscape.

Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of 14 herbicide treatments for purple loosestrife control over a 10-year period. Studies were conducted at four sites along:

 Missouri River near Newcastle in northeast Nebraska in a 10-year-old stand

 Platte River near Kearney in Buffalo County in 3-year-old stands

 Niobrara River north of Johnstown in Brown County in 5-year-old stands

 private lake north of Atkinson in Holt County in 3-year-old stands

Herbicide treatments
These herbicide treatments were evaluated:

 Rodeo (glyphosate, 4 and 6 pints per acre);

 2,4-D Amine (2,4-D amine, 2.5 and 5 pints per acre);

 Garlon 3a (triclopyr, 3 and 5 pints per acre);

 Habitat (imazapyr, 4 and 6 pints per acre);

 Escort (metsulfuron, 2 and 4 ounces per acre);

 Krenite (fosamine, 3 and 5 gallons per acre);

 Garlon+2,4-D (triclopyr, 3 pints per acre + 2,4-D amine, 2.5 pints per acre); and

 Escort+2,4-D (metsulfuron, 1 ounce per acre + 2,4-D amine, 2.5 pints per acre).

Herbicides were applied when purple loosestrife was blooming, which was approximately the last two weeks of June each year. Herbicide efficacy rating was conducted at 60 and 360 days after treatment (DAT) using a scale of zero to 100% (where 0% = no control and 100% = plant death).

It is important to note that not all treatments were applied every year. For example, during the initial years of the experiments all herbicide treatments were applied every year, but the decision whether to respray a particular treatment was based on the rating at 360 DAT, hence all treatments with ratings lower than 100% were resprayed.

Purple loosestrife control
Our data showed that the age of purple loosestrife stand was critical for effective control. The younger the stand, the faster the control was achieved. For example, the 3-year-old stands from Buffalo and Holt required two to three years of consecutive spraying to provide complete control of purple loosestrife (Table 1). At the Holt site, the 3-year-old stands were completely controlled by glyphosate, imazapyr and metsulfuron after two consecutive years of spraying, while 2,4-D, triclopyr and fosamine required three years.

Table 1. Number of annual herbicide treatments (or years) until complete control was achieved for each age group of purple loosestrife stands.

The 5-year-old stands at the Brown site required two to five years of consecutive spraying to achieve 100% control, depending on the herbicide. For example, the earliest complete control was achieved with metsulfuron sprayed for two consecutive years. When spraying glyphosate, imazapyr and a mix of 2,4-D dimethylamine plus triclopyr, three consecutive years of spraying were needed to provide complete control. When spraying 2,4-D dimethylamine, triclopyr and fosamine, it took five consecutive annual applications to achieve complete control.

The 10-year-old stand at the Dixon site required three to nine years of spraying to achieve complete control, depending on the herbicides used (Table 2). For example, imazapyr required three years of consecutive spraying, while a mixture of 2,4-D, triclopyr and fosamine required nine years of annual sprayings.

Table 2. Percent control over time of a 10-year-old purple loosestrife stand from selected herbicide treatments at Dixon.

As these results indicate, selecting the best herbicide for the job is critical for faster control. 

All treatments at all fours sites were also rated and monitored for an extra three years after last spraying, and all ratings showed 100% control (data not shown in this article).

Practical implications
Our study showed that repeated applications of the tested herbicides could provide effective control of purple loosestrife over time, but it required persistence and a well-chosen herbicide. The most effective herbicides for purple loosestrife control were glyphosate, imazapyr and metsulfuron, as they provided the fastest control (within the first two to three years of spraying).

In addition, our assessment of the negative impacts on beneficial vegetation suggested that metsulfuron appears to be the most desirable choice, as it has no detrimental effects on grassy vegetation. Presence of grasses along the edges of waterways is promoted by land managers because grasses provide habitat and food for various bird species (including migratory birds) and feed for grazing animals (deer, livestock).

Knezevic is a Nebraska Extension weed management specialist, and Osipitan is a postdoctoral researcher at UNL. This report comes from UNL CropWatch.

TAGS: Weeds
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