Whitetop workshop Oct. 6

Troops in the war on tall whitetop will get their marching orders Wednesday at a workshop and demonstration on the eradication of the noxious weed which threatens Carson Valley's agriculture industry.

The public is invited to the workshop, set for 2 to 3 p.m. at the Corley Ranch, 895 Highway 395 in Gardnerville. The ranch is located about one mile south of the 7-Eleven store at the intersection with Pine Nut Road.

"Ranchers, farmers, small ranch owners and county residents are invited to attend this free workshop," said Dan Kaffer, regional coordinator of Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development.

"At the workshop, participants will learn how to identify tall whitetop, why it threatens our agriculture, our environment, our wildlife and our water systems. They'll learn methods for controlling tall whitetop and who they can contact to obtain herbicides and other treatment support and supplies," Kaffer said.

Kaffer said presence of the weed along the Truckee River illustrates how invasive tall whitetop is.

"In 1983, there was one patch the size of a quarter acre. Now, there are approximately 13,000 acres," he said.

Because Douglas County has been aggressively fighting the weed, Kaffer estimated that less than 100 acres is being treated here. He said Carson City has 600 acres of tall whitetop, Lyon County 2,000 acres of the noxious weed and Churchill County 3,000 to 4,000 acres.

"This plant drinks between 2 and 4 acre feet of water per acre of tall whitetop," Kaffer said. "That means that somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 acre feet of water is being consumed by tall whitetop annually. This could equate on the Carson River system to current demands for the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge. If tall whitetop takes over, twice as much water will have to go to weed."

n Take command. Kaffer said the workshop is to make residents aware of the problem before the weed gains a greater foothold.

"The 1997 flood spread seed all over the Valley," Kaffer said. "Last year, you would see an occasional plant. This year, we're seeing patches as big as some people's backyards coming from one plant. Not only does tall whitetop use a lot of water, it takes over farmlands, it destroys wildlife habitats and actually contaminates water supplies because of the chemicals in the plant. It doesn't hold the soil in place, it doesn't stabilize soils. It causes erosive soil conditions because it's a taproot plant. It grows almost anywhere - in terrible, wet and muddy soil."

But there's hope.

Kaffer said Wednesday's workshop at the Corley Ranch will show the correct methods for killing the plant.

"This plant can produce between 6 and 7 billion seeds per acre," he said. "A piece of root as small as a quarter-inch can produce the weed. If you burn it, grade it or chop it, that only stimulates the growth. It's very aggressive and the proper techniques need to be learned by folks fast."

People who can't attend the workshop, but believe they may have the weed on their property, are urged to contact Larry Hughes, the county weed abatement officer, at 782-9835.

"The average citizen can buy appropriate herbicides at your local hardware store to kill this weed, but you need to know you're killing the right plant," Kaffer said.

Help and information is available at the Douglas County Extension Office, 1329 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville, 782-9960. Other information is available from Natural Resources Conservation Service, 782-3661.

"Two things threaten the farmlands of Carson Valley - tall whitetop and short blacktop," Kaffer said.


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