Scientists fighting invasive weeds along Platte River
LINCOLN, Neb. – Invasive weeds that thrive in wetlands seriously impact wildlife habitat and water flows in the Platte River, but University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are working to combat them.
Phragmites, also known as common reed, grow profusely along the river, particularly between Grand Island and North Platte, said Stevan Knezevic, integrated weed management specialist. Mechanical, cultural, chemical and biological control methods are being used to fight it.
“This is a bear,” he said. “It’s probably one of the most invasive species on this continent and there’s no silver bullet” to get rid of it.
Farther west, weed specialist Bob Wilson of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center is leading efforts to control Russian olive and salt cedar along the river between the Wyoming state line and Lake McConaughy.
Knezevic is leading a three-year demonstration and research project into various control methods for common reed, including disking, mowing and chemicals. About 10 different experiments began last spring in four areas of the river between North Platte and Grand Island, where it is particularly invasive.
The experiments are being conducted on both public and private land with the permission and collaboration of landowners, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Rowe Sanctuary at Gibbon and the Nature Conservancy.
Since research has shown a single control method fails to provide long-term control of an invasive species, the experiments consist of blending various control methods at different times of the year to see which is most effective.
The work is being supported financially by the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force. The task force, created by state legislation, also includes representatives of wildlife management, local, state and federal entities.
The goal of the research, Knezevic said, is to find the right method to control non-native common reed that thrives in wetlands and can grow 10 to 15 feet tall.
“Once you have a stand, it’s like a wall,” he said.
Not only does the weed compete with native plant populations, it reduces wildlife habitat, creates a fire hazard, affects the water flow and depletes the water from the river.