Turkey Basters and Drills: Trustees’ Knotweed Knotes

knotweedWe took a little tangential walk down a riparian road at the Village Trustees meeting Tuesday.

Chair Candace Coburn was interested in finding out from resident Bob Pear his suggestions for knocking back invasive knotweed from her property.

Pear was officially at the Village Trustees meeting to report on a State of Vermont grant he’ll be applying for on behalf of the Village in order to “park-ify” our riverbank property in the area of our current snow removal dumping site.

However, since Pear seemed to have insider knowledge, and since this is the new Post-Pear-as-Trustee “lovefest” era with her former nemesis,  Coburn asked for advice about her personal plant issues.

Pear suggested that all any of us need to combat knotweed is 1) a drill and  2) a turkey baster to, er, inject killer chemicals into this weed.

Knotweed has apparently become more prevalent along stream banks due to the wide sweep of Tropical Storm flood waters two years ago.

We see there is plenty of informative material out there on the internet about how to combat  knotweed. We provide you with a lovely video from West Virginia –produced with U.S. Fish and Wildlife — and also refer you to this  Vermont website (which is run as a joint effort of scientists at the University of Vermont, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture):

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bob Pear on June 13, 2013 at 17:47

    I have found a lot of bad information out there that could actually make a bad problem even worse. It is ineffective to mechanically remove knotweed by cutting or pulling it out unless it is a seedling, (1st year of growth). Japanese knotweed is an extremely difficult plant to eradicate because of its ability to spread by its roots, (or rhizomes), which can grow to a depth of more than six feet and grow horizontally as far as 23 feet from the original plant. It grows vigorously, creating colonies with dense canopy that make it impossible for any native plants to survive. This plant also produces a compound, polygonum, in its root systems to kill off surrounding native plant species. It has no natural enemies in the U.S. and its ability to out-compete other species results in an unbalanced ecosystem. The plant can survive severe flooding and even tiny pieces of stems or roots washed downstream can take hold and quickly invade areas where stream banks have been eroded or other plants have been washed away or died.
    Herbicide application is currently the only reliable method to completely destroy both the plant stems and its rhizomes. The cut and treat method should only be done by a licensed and experienced contractor. I think injection is more reliable and prevents the herbicide from entering the watershed, but I never suggested it was simple. Even this method will take 2 or more years to accomplish the goal. Any root or stem pieces should be burned, (maybe that’s what they were burning on Cross St on Sunday), otherwise they will re-root and grow a new plant. So if you do cut, weed-wack or mow the stuff, don’t throw it in the river, leave it on the riverbank or let it lie in your lawn- it may just take root again. This stuff is NASTY! In Europe, it is considered a hazardous waste and proper disposal is mandated by law!


  2. Posted by Cyndy on June 13, 2013 at 20:30

    call Chippers …. they helped us tremendously with our 20 foot by 20 foot patch …it has been 2 years and I still need to be vigilant and watch for signs of re-growth on a weekly basis. It is BAD stuff …..and to think it was once considered an ornamental plant !!!


  3. Thanks for the effort to get the word out and inform landowners on the subject of Japanese knotweed.
    I agree that the impacts of the plant populations are economically and ecologically ruinous, and Irene has only worsened the situation in many areas. That said, I have some concerns with the “Turkey Baster” post from 13 June. I was a little alarmed at first, that dozens of landowners would dig out their basters to go patrol their streambanks, so I’m glad that Mr. Pear offered some further information in his comments. Much of his information is right on.

    My thoughts:
    1. We all need to be highly conscious of our impact whenever any of us would offer consultation in the world of herbicide usage. Technically, no one in Vermont is permitted to offer ideas on the subject beyond the boundaries of his/her own property without proper certifications for that particular type of landscape (utility rights of way, wetland, pasture / ag land, etc.). There are valid grounds for that restriction.
    2. Aquatic-approved herbicides are not available to the general public in Vermont. Translation – no one aside from trained professionals should be managing invasive species “in or near water.” Frequently, Japanese knotweed is found in drainages and riparian areas – meaning that the risk to nearby water sources is real and necessitates professional expertise and caution. I have seen this vitally important regulation ignored multiple times; people will spray whatever they can get hold of, per human nature. These are not bad people, and they likely believe they are doing the right thing. The plants are not bad or evil either, for that matter.
    3. The term “park-ify” is interesting. I’m curious to hear more on the science behind that.
    4. I eradicate invasive species without herbicides, as my profession. The work is long-term (multi-year) and seeks to rehabilitate the landscape to a healthier condition, meaning that a diverse native community of plants recovers. When landowners “hammer” a site or seek instant results, there is often a serious risk of other invasive species taking advantage of the opportunity (think goutweed, wild chervil, and garlic mustard). Without a long-term vision or a stewarding presence, the opportunity for native species restoration can be quickly lost.
    5. Most invasive species populations, including Japanese knotweed, can be controlled or eradicated with a cooperative effort by all impacted landowners, a long-term approach, and a commitment to be present on the landscape. In my world, stewardship = presence.
    6. Manual control of Japanese knotweed is a viable and economical option. In the right setting with trained, efficient personnel, Japanese knotweed can be successfully treated. Treatment programs have failed in the past because people do not understand the nuances of the work and the techniques involved, and they create additional unnecessary workload. Burning Japanese knotweed plant material or carting it off to the dump is completely unnecessary and a loss of productive time.

    Finally, Brian Colleran has done great work as a state employee informing towns and landowners about the spread of Japanese knotweed since TS Irene. There are countless others doing tremendous work as well, but it still falls to towns and landowners to decide for themselves that they want their natural resources to take high priority.


    • Mr. Bald, thank you for your comments equally as welcome as Mr . Pear’s or anyone else’s. Since you made the point, what are your scientific credentials to be advising anyone else?

      We would point out that this post was actually meant to be a tongue-in-cheek “raised eyebrow” questioning with regard to “turkey basters” and so forth…while providing some links to other suggested means of dealing with knotweed. Perhaps you missed the point. The post was never intended to endorse one way or another of eradicating this plant. Which you would understand if you were a regular reader.

      “Park-ify” is a stylistic short-hand with regard to a current and ongoing issue of an area well-known to locals who follow present political activity related to that area, which we did not choose to go into.

      We also were not concerning ourselves with the specifics of the riverbank grant at this time. But, rest assured Mr. Pear, as a recent Village Trustee and excellent liaison with the State of Vermont concerning “park-i-fication,” is not taking any action with regards to parks or riverbanks or knotweed that is not fully vetted. While we do not know his specific qualifications as a scientist, we do know extremely well his propensity for meticulous research and doing things “by-the-book” — including sticking to State of Vermont riparian rules.

      We realize there is a lot of emotion – as opposed to science — centered on the topic of invasives which is why WEB provided a video produced by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to further educate anyone. We also included a link to a website produced by scientists at the University of Vermont prepared in a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      Frankly, this was a post about an off-the-cuff remark, which, often, is what we write about. We NEVER expect anyone to take action based solely on the news and OPINION found in this personal web log.



      • I have little opportunity to blog or chat during the growing season, but I commented because two of your dedicated followers directed me to the knotweed conversation. Thank you for the background you provided; apologies for being out-of-sync with the tone of the post.
        My qualifications are simply that I have been managing invasive plant species for ten years with a focus on the “danger plant” category. Self-employed with a degree in biology and founding contributor to two Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas in Vermont. I obtained a pesticide applicator’s license with the US Forest Service in 2009, but never put it to use.


  4. Posted by Bob Pear on June 17, 2013 at 22:27

    Michael, Rest assured, the knotweed eradication program we will be following at the Jungle Parcel will be performed by a certified applicator. The turkey baster technique was the method I personally employed on my property after much research and I did not suggest at the meeting that anyone should do the same. At the time, I felt it was the safest alternative because the small amount of glyphosate injected, (5 ml, 40% strength), was contained within the stem so it would not enter the watershed, (unlike spraying). Even with the 85 to 90% kill rate I achieved, I understood that it was a long term commitment, and I let that be known at the Village meeting as well.

    So I would agree that the herbicide application should typically be done by a certified applicator, particularly when the treatment is occurring on the riverbank.

    It must be clarified what you mean by manual control. If you are saying that control can be achieved by mechanical removal, (pulling out), I respectfully disagree. It is equally alarming to me to think of dozens of landowners trying to pull out knotweed themselves, only to have twice as many or more new plants come up where the roots were broken and left.

    I would also like to learn your alternative disposal method to prevent any of the cut material from re-rooting since burning or landfill disposal certainly is not ideal.


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