Invasive weed Palmer amaranth is making its way into the Midwest from the South’s cotton country. The nasty weed can grow as high as seven feet and one plant can produce up to a million seeds.
Herbicides are increasingly useless against the weed and its thick stems and deep roots make it difficult to clear by hand. Midwestern weed scientists are alarmed at the plant’s appearance, saying that something should be done.
The Washington Post reports that cotton growers in the South already spend roughly $100 million per year trying to keep the weed out of their fields. However, they haven’t been successful in eradicating it.
Palmer amaranth was discovered in Iowa and already established itself in parts of Indiana, worrying farmers that the weed will cause huge losses for their corn and soybean yields. Purdue University weed scientist Bill Johnson warned, “This is not just a nuisance. This is a game-changer.”
The weed is more difficult to get rid of than its brethren because of the amount of seeds it produces, notes ABC News. One Palmer amaranth plant produces between 500,000 and one million seeds, and a combine can scatter the seeds from one or two plants over an entire field.
W.C. Grimes, who farms 1,600 acres of cotton, peanuts, and corn in Georgia, knows firsthand how difficult the weed is to get rid of. He commented of the problem, “This is a crop robber. It will steal your profit. It will choke your cotton out, and anything else you’re trying to grow.”
Grimes added that the key to overcoming Palmer amaranth’s resistance to the herbicide glyphosate is to change herbicides regularly. His advice to Midwestern farmers is to do whatever it takes to kill the weed as soon as it crops up, otherwise they will face the same problems he has.
Kendal Kulp, who owns a farm in northwestern Indiana, saw the weed last year, though he didn’t know what it was until a seed salesman saw it this summer. He commented, “Unfortunately I think it’s going to be a pretty difficult weed to control for us.”
While Palmer amaranth hasn’t been seen in full force in the Midwest, farmers are being warned to keep a close eye out for the difficult invasive weed.