Walt weeding

Walter Schweitzer tackling weeds using a sprayer at on his ranch in Geyser, MT. 

No matter how big your backyard or land may be, everyone finds weeding to be a daunting task. Weeding is an ongoing process every farmer and rancher must combat to clear their land, spanning hundreds of thousands of acres across the Treasure State. Weeds can spread easily and quickly and Walter Schweitzer, President of the Montana Farmers Union, explains why it’s important to get rid of them fast.

"There's lots of tactics for controlling weeds it's not an exact science and timing is critical," said Schweitzer.

Weeds sound like just a farmer's problem, but they can be a problem for every consumer because if the weeds aren't properly taken care of they can become costly.

According to Jane Mangold, Professor and Extension Invasive Plant Specialist at Montana State University, “they can result in a loss of yield which then starts cutting yield, which then starts cutting into production and economic viability.” 

Mangold's team at M.S.U. studied the economic impact of noxious weeds on forage production in 2016. They found pretty flowered weeds could boast a big price tag, costing farmers $1.30/ acre annually. Every dollar spent on weeds in the field is a dollar you spend in the grocery store.

"I probably spend on my crops and on my range weeds somewhere between $10-15,000 a year. They cost Montana farmers and ranchers, counties, and states millions of dollars trying to keep them in control," says Schweitzer. 

He says there's a method to the madness in order to get his land under control, including hand picking, spot spraying, or field spraying.

"You can go in and either clip it or pull it and then sprinkle a little bit of chemical pellets or Tordon pellets that will kill the regrowth."  

His wife Cindi has spent over 80 hours this season alone getting down and dirty by handpicking weeds from the root. When they become overpowering or too much, he always calls in for assistance from a local Co-Op.

A few different organic approaches can also help; like target grazing, where other animals are used to eat the weeds, or biological control, where little bugs are released to chip away at fields full of weeds.

"Every weed has a little different management technique. Some weeds you want to spray when they're young and growing to kill them before they turn to seed. Others like the Canadian thistle, you want it to be dying. Some people think it’s pretty...but it isn’t.”  

Fighting weeds is a never ending battle no matter what time of year to get ahead for next season.

Montana Family Farms is sponsored by the Montana Farmers Union. Each story focuses on Walter Schweitzer’s life on the farm and a bigger impact on the industry across the Treasure State and beyond.

News For You