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U.S. Forest Service
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United States Department of Agriculture

Protecting the Forest Highlights

Turning a Profit: Making Headway Against the 7th Worst Weed in the World

Cogongrass flowering in pine stand

Cogongrass flowering in a pine stand. Photo: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org.

Eradicate one of the top ten worst weeds in the world? Impossible most would say. But put this task in the hands of the Georgia Forestry Commission and they will work to make it happen.

Like a business after a major shopping holiday, the state of Georgia’s cogongrass program is finally profiting from all of their hard work. For the first time since the Forest Service Southern Region’s Forest Health Protection Program began funding cogongrass control in 2004 for the state of Georgia, there are more dead cogongrass spots in the state than new areas of cogongrass being reported. This is a significant shift in the status of cogongrass for the state of Georgia and provides an opportunity to highlight a successful invasive plant treatment program. The Georgia Forestry Commission’s Cogongrass Taskforce treats every cogongrass infestation that is reported in the state, and re-sprays as needed until they are negative for cogongrass for three years and receive ‘eradicated’ status. As budgets have dwindled over the years, the continued funding of the cogongrass initiative as well as the hard work and dedication of Georgia Forestry Commission staff have given hope to the notion of eradicating a weed that has consumed millions of dollars in control efforts throughout many Southern Gulf states.

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), accidentally introduced as packaging material and later planted for erosion control and forage trials, quickly escaped cultivation and spread throughout the South and is now a federally listed noxious weed. A unique grass that is even a pest in its home range, cogongrass forms thick monotypic stands, crowding out native species and destroying native habitat. Of the many issues cogongrass causes in an ecosystem, perhaps the most perilous are the extremely hot and intense fires that occur when it burns—sometimes producing flame heights over 10 feet tall that destroy mature trees and put wildland firefighters at risk.

It is no wonder cogongrass is a priority species of control in many states and has received continuous control funding through the USDA’s Forest Service Forest Health Protection Program. As Georgia and many other states continue to fight the war against cogongrass, it is important to recognize these program successes and continue the funding for long-term management of invasives.

To learn more about cogongrass and the Southern states’ efforts to eradicate it, please visit: www.cogongrass.org.

Burning Cogongrass

Cogongrass burns extremely hot through a longleaf pine stand in Alabama. Photo: Nancy J Loewenstein, Wildland Weeds. 2010.