Palmer amaranth

A free workshop on Palmer Amaranth, one of the most dangerous weeds facing American Agriculture, is set for Tuesday, November 5th from 8:30 am to noon at the Richland County Extension Office Conference Room in Sidney, MT. The goal of the event is to provide producers with the tools needed for early detection and removal of this dangerous weed, including not only what needs to be done but what to avoid doing.

However, the event also has a lighter tone when it comes to refreshments where producers will be able to literally take a bite out of Palmer amaranth! Dr. John Gaskin, a molecular botanist with the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, and a presenter at the event, is going to be cooking up a Palmer amaranth “porridge” with grain made from the plant for workshop participants to sample. It turns out, Palmer amaranth and other pigweed species were a common food source for early Native Americans in the southwest and the grain from the weed and related species is still available on grocery shelves today.

But while the plant may be edible, it remains a very serious weed for agriculture, Gaskin noted. “This weed can be devastating to crop production as evidenced elsewhere across the country,” he said. “We definitely don’t want to see it here, which is why we are putting on this workshop. We just included the porridge as a fun addition, but it should in no way lead anyone to think the weed is not a very serious threat to agriculture production in Montana.”

Palmer amaranth is a pigweed relative, rapidly growing (2-3 inches a day to reach a height of up to 6 feet) and is one of the most adaptable and dangerously resistant weeds in the country. Populations of this pest have developed resistance to nearly all herbicides (and modes of action) commonly available to producers for weed management. The hundreds of thousands of tiny seeds from a single plant are easily transportable in equipment or through grain, seed or feed contamination, accounting for its spread from its native Southwest though the Southeast, on up to the Midwest, and now into the northern Great Plains. It emerges throughout the growing season and competes aggressively in crops. Farmers and ranchers across Montana need to take immediate action to identify and prevent establishment here, weed scientists warn, and this workshop is designed to provide participants the necessary tools to do that.

The workshop is sponsored by the Montana Wheat and Barely Committee and Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Featured speakers include: Dr. Jason Bond, the weed control in agronomics crop specialist from Mississippi State University Extension and a veteran in battling Palmer amaranth; Dr. Brian Jenks, weed scientist at the North Central Research Extension Center in Minot, North Dakota, who helped identify Palmer Amaranth’s arrival in that state, and Dr. Tim Seipel, Montana State University Extension Cropland Specialist, who will discuss ways to combat herbicide resistance.

Discussions on identification tips, scouting options and more are also planned, along with a question and answer session with a panel of the program’s weed experts. Four private and commercial pesticide points are available for those attending this workshop. Commercial points are for those applicators licensed in Dealer, Ag Plant Pest Control, Right of Way Pest Control, Demonstration and Research, Special Utility, and Regulatory Weed.

The workshop will also be broadcast as a live webinar at participating County Extension Offices and MSU Research Centers across Montana, where attendees there will also be eligible for pesticide points. Please contact the Richland County Extension Office for questions: Phone: 406-433-1206; E-mail: richland@montana.edu.

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