PITTSBURG – Removing garden variety weeds from lawns and fields may be a hassle for area residents, but some may not be aware that they’re legally required to keep certain unwelcome plant varieties — those officially designated “noxious weeds” in the State of Kansas — under control.
Kansas classifies 12 plant species as noxious weeds, though only five are serious problems in Crawford County, according to County Noxious Weed Director Ed Fields. The five to look out for are bull thistle, musk thistle, field bindweed, Johnson grass and sericea lespedeza.
“Our Achilles heel is sericea lespedeza,” said Fields. “That’s the one that’s just killing us.”
Noxious weeds, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture “are one of the greatest threats to the Kansas environment. They displace native plant species, interfere with the production of agricultural crops, increase erosion, destroy wildlife habitat and decrease property values.”
Beginning in December 2020, changes will be coming to how Kansas handles noxious weeds. At that time, the noxious weed law will shift from statute to regulation, giving the Secretary of Agriculture authority to declare plant species noxious weeds “based on the recommendation of a 13-member committee, rather than that determination taking place via legislation in the Kansas House and Senate,” said Department of Agriculture Director of Communications Heather Lansdowne.
The 13-member committee is expected to be in place by this summer, after which further changes to noxious weed regulations may be expected. Until then, however, noxious weed law enforcement will continue to follow current practices.
Anyone who owns or supervises land anywhere in the county is required to either eradicate noxious weeds on their property or prevent them from spreading. Failure to handle noxious weed problems can result in a legal notice to remove the weeds within five days, after which a landowner or supervisor may face criminal charges for non-compliance and a fine of $100 per day, up to a maximum of $1,500.
The other plant varieties designated statewide as noxious weeds are hoary cress, leafy spurge, pignut, quackgrass, Russian knapweed, kudzu, and Canada thistle. Of these, the last two have been minor problems in Crawford County. Kudzu still has a small presence in the county, while Canada thistle has mostly been eradicated in recent years, Fields said.
People can contact the Crawford County Weed Department if they think they may have a noxious weed problem at 620-724-4079.