NAISMA’s Weed Free Products Program & Ventenata dubia


NAISMA’s mission is to empower invasive species management in North America. The Certified Weed Free Products (WFP) Program plays a pivotal role in achieving this mission by establishing coordinated and consistent weed-free product programs across all jurisdictions. The goal is to stop noxious and prohibited weeds from spreading through these pathways. NAISMA is deeply committed to maintaining, reviewing, and updating the North American weed-free product standards, which currently cover forage, gravel, mulch, and soon, compost. Additionally, NAISMA provides professional training for all WFP Inspectors.

The WFP Program’s expansion has included the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) for certified weed-free products. To become a participating agency, the NAISMA Weed Free Products Committee requires the use of this MOU. Sponsoring agencies or organizations are asked to enter into this agreement with NAISMA to sponsor the Weed Free Products Program for Forage, Gravel, and/ or Mulch in their area. 

Additional resources for NAISMA’s WFP Program include an online training program for certified WFP inspectors. All inspectors of a participating agency with a current MOU are required to take the online training. NAISMA recently updated the training to include videos, supplemental materials, and new mulch standards.

The Growth doesn’t stop there; a promising collaboration with the USFWS-NAISMA BIL Prevention Grant is set to infuse capital into the Weed Free Products program. This partnership aims to raise awareness and create strategic alliances to advance pathway prevention standards. Moreover, the development of a marketing plan and a national directory will further facilitate the adoption of certified WFP products.

Recently, the Montana Department of Agriculture petitioned for Ventenata dubia to be added to NAISMA’s prohibited weed list due to a variety of factors. Adding Ventenata to the NAISMA Prohibited Weed List improves the chances of containing and reducing the spread by limiting seed source spread and encouraging the use of weed-free forage, mulch, and gravel; as contamination is suspected as a major source of spread between states. More information about that petition can be found here. Final voting on the petition will take place at NAISMA’s Annual Conference in Lincoln, NE.

Ventenata dubia, a notorious invasive species, poses a significant risk to North America. This species has the potential to quickly displace native plant species, degrade agricultural land, increase soil erosion, and decrease wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities. It often hitches a ride on Kentucky bluegrass, hay, and annual crops, contaminating them as it goes. This invasive grass can also be found along roadsides, making it all too easy for it to spread along transportation corridors. But Ventenata doesn’t stop there; its long awns, easily picked up by clothing, equipment, and fur, allow it to be carried by humans and animals. Sadly, there are few known methods for controlling Ventenata, especially in range and pasture settings.

Ventenata control is no small feat. Attempting to mow it during the heading phase can be futile, as the plants either bend over or tangle in the mower, earning the nickname “wiregrass.” If Ventenata is mowed once before heading, plants may produce another flush of heads (Lass & Prather, 2007). For a more comprehensive approach, mowing Ventenata multiple times throughout the growing season has proven to be a successful method of control (Gribble, 2008). 

On the other hand, fire isn’t a suitable control method, as it has often led to unintended consequences, bolstering Ventenata populations (Brummer, 2008; Mafera, 2008). In Idaho, fire suppressed Ventenata but tended to stimulate annual weedy bromes and left an opening for more Ventenata the following year (Lass & Prather, 2007).  

Chemical applications are known to be effective in cropland with several herbicides available. However, these might not be a viable option in other contexts. Thus far, Biological control methods have not been considered for control.

The battle against invasive species, symbolized by the menace of Ventenata, requires dedicated efforts. NAISMA’s Weed Free Products Program is a beacon of hope in this ongoing struggle. By understanding the challenges, celebrating the milestones, and embracing growth and collaboration, NAISMA continues to make an indelible impact. Together, we can ensure a greener, healthier North America. Join NAISMA’s fight against invasive species and learn more about their initiatives. Together, we can truly “stop the spread!”

Sponsored by: Colorado Department of Agriculture, Montana Department of Agriculture and Nevada Department of Agriculture

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