A one-time only hawkweed control program is being offered to Ponoka County farmers by the county’s Agricultural Service Board (ASB).
The program was launched from Hoadley Hall on March 13 and will cost $60,000. Shayne Steffen, county manager of agricultural services, says that figure is based on $30 per acre for the herbicide.
“Right around 2,000 is what we have maxed. Now there could be, with this program, we may find people with more. That’s why I have that first-come first-served,” said Steffen.
The program however, is not retroactive. “With a program like this it’s almost impossible to go back and confirm that somebody had the weeds,” said Steffen.
“The program is only for one year. It’s good for this year, 2013; 2014 and beyond it’s their responsibility,” he added.
The ASB decided last fall they would go ahead with the program since the county’s grace period for landowners with the weed ends this June. Afterwards the ASB will begin issuing weed notices.
“But even with writing a weed notice these people will still be eligible, if the program money has not been spent,” said Steffen.
Steffen says the weed can be sprayed at any time but the best time is late May to late June.
“If you’re going to, do that initial kill, and then go back and maintain it,” he said. “You can’t mow it, you can’t hand pick it. It makes this plant go mad and vegetatively crazy.”
Along with new infestations that are bound to pop up, the program faces a few other challenges.
Steffen says one will be Crown land. “There is no distance separation for lease owners.”
There are about half a dozen people leasing Crown land living outside Ponoka county.
“Some of the issue I have with Crown land is the Crown has not been very forthcoming in bringing any money to control these weeds,” said Steffen.
He feels when the weeds were added to the Weed Control Act due diligence wasn’t done to investigate whether the weeds plagued Alberta, and now it’s up to ratepayers to control them.
“My personal feelings or opinion is to keep the county’s tax dollars in the county and have our ratepayers reap the benefits of that, not the Crown.”
Another challenge will be organic and horticultural vinegar products because it kills both the weeds and other surrounding vegetation; leaving barren space for the weeds to come back.
“Under the Weed Control Act organic producers are not exempt. So that’s where I could possibly see some issues coming in,” Steffen explained.
Steffen says the majority of the county’s hawkweed population can be found west of Secondary Highway 771 and north of Highway 53. However it is travelling throughout the county on transported hay.