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musings on knapweed

 
dan long
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I'm watching a video on knapweed and the economic problems its causing by displacing native grasses. Apparently cows don't like knapweed. One of the biological controlls used is sheep who don't mind knapweed. Just watching the video, the solution seems pretty straight forward to me: raise sheep instead of cows. Why are they not doing that?

Another musing: how much low-skill labor would it take to hand pull a few hundred acres of knapweed? I'm sure this wouldn't eliminate the knapweed, but i suspect that it could controll the numbers enough to give the native grasses a leg-up.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Dan,

Could you link a photo of "knapweed" and perhaps that video on it you found so helpful? I'd love to muse but I'd like to be sure I know what plant we're talking about

Re: Hand weed a few hundred acres?

Sheesh.

I mean, are you in Seattle or paying Federal workers? Cause at 15 $ an hour that'd be a fortune. At what... 7.50ish? ... Still probably a fortune depending on how far gone the field is.

Weeding a hundred acres.

By hand


...
 
Craig Dobbson
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I think he's referring to this one from PBS What plants talk about. It's pretty interesting. As I was watching this one I was thinking of all the permie solutions to the issues that were being brought up. As a matter of fact I was yelling at the screen "THEN SWITCH TO SHEEP YOU ASS HOLES" as soon as they mentioned that sheep eat it but that cattle won't touch it. Seemed simple to me.
 
Cj Sloane
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Someone on permies told me this is spotted knapweed:


I wanted to know what plant this was because honeybees were all over it in an area where there was no hive. It didn't come up in my searches because I was looking for a honey bee friendly wild flower, not nasty invasive weed!

My cousin suggested I take it home with me for my bees but I figured I'd better look it up first.

It'd be good for my free ranging sheep but I don't want to introduce such an invasive plant. It'll get here on it's own, I imagine.
 
dan long
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Landon Sunrich wrote:Dan,

Could you link a photo of "knapweed" and perhaps that video on it you found so helpful? I'd love to muse but I'd like to be sure I know what plant we're talking about

Re: Hand weed a few hundred acres?

Sheesh.

I mean, are you in Seattle or paying Federal workers? Cause at 15 $ an hour that'd be a fortune. At what... 7.50ish? ... Still probably a fortune depending on how far gone the field is.

Weeding a hundred acres.

By hand


...


15$ per hour definitely wouldn't be economically practical. However, where I came from, north of Seattle, a large part of the agricultural labor was done by illegal immigrants, working under the table for far less than minimum wage. Perhaps one day immigrants will receive better protection and receive the wages they deserve but until then, Jose has to feed his family and jobs are few and far between, even at 3$ an hour.

Some more socially responsible sources of labor might include: convicts, minors, the mentally handicapped, and the long term unemployed. Perhaps, when it is too cost prohibitive to use so much fossil fuel in order to grow our food, farms will surround prisons where the least dangerous of the inmates can supply cheap labor. Besides that, farming/gardening seems to have a therapeutic effect. Perhaps this would help with their rehabilitation? Many minors would jump at the chance to make some spending money, especially in the summer when they don't have all that much to do. Besides, it is much healthier than playing videos games all day. People with mental handicaps usually have a difficult time finding a place in the workforce but pulling/chopping weeds is very low-skilled labor that only the most extremely handicapped individuals would not be able to perform. People who would otherwise be unemployed could possibly be required to put in a certain minimum number of hours in the field in order to qualify for social benefits.

Perhaps i'm starting to go out onto a tangent about society and unemployment rather than knapweed so i'll leave it at that for now.
 
dan long
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I think he's referring to this one from PBS What plants talk about. It's pretty interesting. As I was watching this one I was thinking of all the permie solutions to the issues that were being brought up. As a matter of fact I was yelling at the screen "THEN SWITCH TO SHEEP YOU ASS HOLES" as soon as they mentioned that sheep eat it but that cattle won't touch it. Seemed simple to me.


So, im not the only one then? Usually when the answer seems so simple, I just assume there is some important aspect that I don't understand. So, are you and I the two most intelligent people in the world, or is there a reason (that your aware of) that the ranchers would still choose to raise cows?
 
Jennifer Quinn
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dan long wrote:...raise sheep instead of cows. Why are they not doing that?


My grandpa is an old-school Montana rancher. I asked him this question years ago and he told me 1) sheep are too stupid; and 2) running sheep instead of cattle means LOTS of ticks. He rarely gives a full answer to any question, though, and he doesn't have a huge knapweed problem. More recently he told me that cattle are the best way to make a profit. I think this is closer to the answer you're looking for.

When smart people persist in doing something that doesn't make sense, money is usually the reason. Force of habit might be another reason.

Me, I'm a beekeeper, so I love knapweed. It feeds my bees when all the other flowers have succumbed to the hot, dry summer
 
Leila Rich
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dan long wrote: is there a reason (that your aware of) that the ranchers would still choose to raise cows?

I don't know if it's relevant, but I've always got the impression that many Americans don't like the gamy/lanolin taste of sheep meat?
I know farming in North America and NZ are poles apart,
but here extensive/dryland sheep farming has well and truly lost out to lucrative intensive/irrigated dairying.
 
mike mclellan
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Spotted knapweed likes compacted soil and often appears in areas disturbed by heavy machinery. I see it in city lots here in Helena so it's not just a wildland plant. Yes, honeybees love it. Its seeds persist for about seven years in the soil so if it is eradicated mechanically, it may well pop right back up. I had about forty to sixty plants in my pasture so it was easy to pull by hand last year. This year I've found three so it's not too tough to get control of early in an infestation.

I don't find it as undesirable as bindweed in my hugelbeds in comparison. Bindweed is tougher in some respects in a garden or field crop situation, but I don't see it in the hills around this part of Montana growing in wild ecosystems like I do spotted knapweed. Spotted knapweed is reputed to slowly concentrate zinc in the upper topsoil through bioaccumulation. I strongly suspect using a mob grazing approach in infested areas, and using various kinds of livestock in the system would control knapweed well.
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