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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at 9:49 PM

Edith on Kochia -- just pull it

Edith on Kochia -- just pull it
by Edith Isidoro-Mills -- I always wondered why anyone would have introduced kochia or, alkali weed as we sometimes called here in Churchill, as an ornamental.  I had read the horticulturists who introduced it to the gardening industry did so because it had nice fall color.  I really was having trouble see this because most of the kochia I have seen over the years did not have any exceptional color until I noticed a few plants that had changed to an interesting purplish red color recently. Still, this doesn’t change my opinion of this annoying weed.  It is an example of how gardeners and farmers have introduced plants that later proved to be problematic. Kochia (Kochia scoparia or Bassia scoparia) was introduced to North American around 1900 from Eurasia (Eastern Europe and central Asia).  At the time, its appeal to gardeners was the red color in the fall.  Some called it burning bush.  The claim was that this weed turned a brilliant red in the fall. This puzzled me because all the kochia I had ever seen usually turned yellow or just went straight to straw colored after the frost. As mentioned above farmers also found use for kochia.  It is very high in protein and livestock like it.  They even used to raise large fields of it.  It does have one drawback.  If you apply too much nitrogen fertilizer, it can be toxic.  Still, it can be highly nutritious and it is very drought tolerant. The problem is it is so productive almost anywhere in North America and out-competes many crops and obstructs views along roads.  It also can germinate a new crop several times a year and has large genetic diversity; both of which allow it readily to acquire resistance to herbicides.  Kochia has developed resistance to at least four herbicide classes and one of those herbicides is the most common one available to gardeners.  That herbicide is Glyphosate or Roundup. So, what is a gardener to do?  My suggestion is stop applying Roundup to kochia or alkali weed.  Instead, try hoeing kochia out when it is young.  This may take time but if you can get it out before the kochia pollen appears, you can keep it from producing seed.  In the winter, if any weeds blow into your yard remove them.  Try not to drag them over the ground any distance since the seeds fall off and inoculate the soil.  If you use any herbicide, try using a pre-emergent one that prevents seed germination.  However, don’t use any pre-emergent herbicide where you want to start any plants by direct seeding.  They will also not germinate.  Do not apply a soil sterilant because you will not be able to plant anything in that site for 10 to 20 years afterwards. The best solution to controlling kochia is by either hoeing or pulling it out of your yard. Establishing a good perennial ground cover in the form of densely planted flowerbeds or lawn will also help control kochia on property.  I do not recommend landscape fabric to control weeds.  I will write more on that next week.     Never miss the local news -- read more on The Fallon Post home page. If you enjoy The Fallon Post, please support our effort to provide local, independent news and make a contribution today.  Your contribution makes possible this online news source for all things Fallon.