Landowners can get help fighting cogongrass

By BUSTER WOLFE,

A weed is a weed, people may think.

However, one weed – cogongrass – is wreaking havoc in Lamar and Forrest counties. So, the Mississippi Forestry Commission is offering help.

Free cogongrass herbicide treatments may be available thanks to a time-limited program made available by a grant from the USDA Forest Service.

Todd Matthews, the MFC’s Urban Forestry & Forest Health Coordinator, said people don’t seem to think much about cogongrass.

“However, it is really invasive,” he said. “It’s one of the worst weeds in the world. We’ve got a bunch of it. Mississippi’s coast is pretty much Ground Zero for it.”

The goal of the MFC’s Cogongrass Control Program is to reduce the threat of the harmful weed in Mississippi. Cogongrass affects pine productivity and survival, wildlife habitat, recreation, native plants, fire behavior and forest management costs.

Matthews said cogongrass came into the United States as packing material.

“There was a time when people realized it grew pretty well, and people tried planting it for erosion control,” he said. “It doesn’t work well for pretty much anything. It is unique in appearance. When the seed head is on it, it is pretty fuzzy-looking, especially right now if you drive up and down U.S. Hwy. 49 or I-10. You can see it really well this time of year with the seed heads on it.”

Cogongrass is most dangerous below the surface, Matthews said.

“It’s harmful for everything, period,” he said. “It chokes everything out. We see the above-ground part of it and think, ‘Well, that’s not too bad.’ What is the really bad thing is what’s going on below the ground because the roots just form this root mass. It’s really hard and it chokes out other vegetation. Nothing else can grow. It does the same thing with pines, hardwoods, anywhere it’s growing it will choke out the competition.”

Cogongrass also has no natural enemy.

“Nothing eats it,” Matthews said. “There’s no wildlife that will eat it. If a hog or a goat won’t eat this stuff, you know it’s bad stuff.”

Locally, the cogongrass threat is worrying some foresters.

“Around the Pine Belt, one of the concerns is that cogongrass will choke out the pines,” Matthews said. “Also fires that start with cogongrass are very hot.”

Spraying is about the only way to control it, Matthews said.

“The spraying is pretty much the only way to control it,” he said. “There’s been some work done with deep disking to control it, but it doesn’t get rid of it. You have to be careful when you are disking because you are just kinda moving those roots around. You can spread them around.”

Matthews said the Mississippi Forestry Commission stepped in to help the landowners.

“People need help with it,” he said. “It’s not just that people need help with it; they need their neighbors to get help with it. If they do something with it on their property and their neighbor doesn’t do anything, then it’s going to be right back on their property. That’s really why we are trying to get the word out; we want to try to cover an area as well as possible so we can keep it from repopulating from spots that are missed.”

Because cogongrass can spread quickly, stopping the spread is difficult.

“It spreads really quickly and that’s part of the challenge,” Matthews said. “If we don’t have cooperation from everybody, from every landowner, every road crew, you name it. Everybody has got to get involved to take care of it. We are just fighting it year after year.”

Applications for the grant must be received by June 30. Download the application at http://bit.ly/CogonApp2018