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ISSUE 16   August 27, 1998



    The departure of Dr. Bill Ahrens, NDSU Weed Scientist, a couple of years ago and retirement of Dr. John Nalewaja in September, 1998 creates two weed science vacancies at NDSU. Dr. Nalewaja’s absence will be missed because of his vast knowledge of herbicide use, weed control, spray water quality and adjuvant. Seven applicants have been selected to interview for these two positions in August and September.

    Responsibilities for Dr. Ahrens position includes weed science research for reduced tillage and no_tillage systems and research on weed biology and weed resistance as related to agricultural practices in North Dakota. It is 90% research and 10% teaching. Both field and laboratory research is expected. The individual selected will teach at least one semester course, advise graduate and undergraduate students, interact with commodity groups, and participate in university activities.

    Responsibilities for Dr. Nalewaja’s position include weed science research in small grains, sunflower, and minor crops using appropriate chemical, cultural, mechanical, and biological methods. Specific areas of research will also include registration of herbicides for minor crops and increasing herbicide efficacy through application technology. It is 90% research and 10% teaching. Both field and laboratory research is expected. The individual selected will teach at least one semester course, advise graduate and undergraduate students, interact with commodity groups, and participate in university activities.

    A new Extension Weed Science/Crop Production position is also open at NDSU. The 100% extension position is to work primarily the Red River Valley of both ND and MN and will be funded by both university systems. Application for this position will close September 21. We hope to have all three positions filled by the first part of 1999.



    A computer program designed to enhance the learning experiences of college students at North Dakota State University is now available to others on compact disc (CD). It provides immediate answers to the real_life questions agricultural producers, extension agents, crop consultants and anyone else have about identifying weeds growing in this region. If a farmer has a weed and wants to know what it looks like as a seedling or at another growth stage, he can use this CD to identify it. The original weed_identification computer program was developed and adapted to a CD format with the assistance of Edward Deckard and Cal Messersmith, both professors in the NDSU plant sciences department.

    The program features 57 weed species and covers the growth stages of most weeds. The information includes differentiating characteristics of weeds. So by using the CD, it's possible to see the differences between similar species, such as green and yellow foxtail. Also, the CD's photos and other identifying graphics will enable producers, extension agents, crop consultants and high school students to know they're talking about the same weed. The ID program can be used to identify weeds as well as specific parts of the plants like auricles, ocreas, cotyledon and leaf shapes, etc.

    The CD, titled "Weeds of the Northern Great Plains," sells for $100, which includes shipping and handling. The CD operates on a Windows platform (either Windows 95 or 3.1) and will run on computers equipped with a CD_ROM drive and no less than a 386 processor. It's available through the distribution center of the NDSU agriculture communication department. Mail requests and payment to Distribution Center, Box 5655, Morrill 10-NDSU, Fargo ND 58105-5655, or call (701) 231-7882.



    The world's biggest selling weed killer could become a new treatment for cancer and Aids. Proctor and Gamble of Cincinnati, has applied for an international patent for pills, powders and liquid drugs containing the weed killer Roundup, which is manufactured by Monsanto. Roundup provides a safer way of knocking out breast cancer cells because it causes less damage to healthy tissue in the human body than existing chemotherapy treatments. It is also effective against lung cancer and cancer of the colon and leukemia.

    Roundup (glyphosate) has been nicknamed "God's herbicide" in the trade because of its reputation for killing weeds and leaving wild birds and mammals unscathed. Proctor and Gamble, America's 17th largest company, revealed details about its work with Roundup to cure a range of fatal illnesses in people and animals. It does not have any plans to pursue a joint venture with Monsanto to develop the weed killer in a variety of medicines. Executives were at pains to say nothing which would give away trade secrets to its competitors in the cut_throat world of the pharmaceutical industry, where patenting and bringing new products to market can cost millions at a time. The company confirmed that it had applied in the US for an international patent for a composition containing the weed killer "that is effective in inhibiting the growth of tumors and cancers in mammals with mild or no effects on normal cells". The application proposes using Roundup in low doses in pills, powders, pessaries or injections to treat all types of cancers or neoplasm or tumors found in mammals, including leukemia". The patent application includes details of laboratory tests on human breast, lung and colon cancer cells which appear to show that the Roundup preparation was safer and more effective than Adriamycin which is currently used in cancer treatments. If successful, Roundup will join a list of beneficial medicines which have been derived from unlikely sources. Warfarin, the rat poison, is used to thin the blood of heart patients. It is vitally important that people don't go out and start drinking Roundup because they think it will be good for their health.

The rest of the story: In view of the information given above, would it surprise you to learn that the EPA fined Monsanto $380,000 for accidentally omitting the 4 hour reentry interval when reprinting some Roundup labels?

Richard Zollinger
NDSU Extension Weed Specialist



    Lythrum, commonly called purple loosestrife, is beginning to invade the state's wetlands and waterways, and several species of knapweed are invading range and crop land. Purple loosestrife, a beautiful garden plant with an aggressive nature, has been in North Dakota for at least 50 years as a cultivated flower. It's been shown that these garden varieties of purple loosestrife, once thought to be sterile, can cross breed with wild varieties. In the wild, purple loosestrife crowds out native plants and destroys habitat for ducks, muskrats and other wildlife. Heavy infestations can reduce stream flow. Even with infestations in or near Grand Forks, Fargo, Valley City and Minot, there is less than 50 acres of purple loosestrife in the entire state which makes it a very manageable infestation.

    In 1996, purple loosestrife was placed on the North Dakota noxious weed list which includes the weeds considered by North Dakota officials to pose the most serious economic or health threat. Purple loosestrife is the only weed on the list that does not pose a threat to the state's crops or rangeland. Purple loosestrife clogs thousands of acres of wetlands, lakes and waterways in Minnesota and other nearby states and provinces. It can spread when seeds float away and sprout or broken parts of the plant take root. If you see an infestation, contact your county weed officer.

    Purple loosestrife does not yet cause an economic loss but Dr. Lym and other researchers are looking for insects and other biological methods of controlling it. The most identifiable characteristic of purple loosestrife is the striking rose-to-purple-colored flowers arranged on a spike that can be from a few inches to three feet long. It typically flowers from early July until first frost in North Dakota.

    Meanwhile, three species of knapweed, relatives of the thistle, are also threatening the state. Knapweeds are currently the No. 1 threat to agricultural acreage in North Dakota. These weeds spread faster than thistles and have the potential to eclipse leafy spurge in acreage and rate of spread.

    Leafy spurge is the current king of weeds in North Dakota rangeland, spreading rapidly and stubbornly resisting attempts to kill it. Current knapweed infestations in North Dakota are found primarily along highways, waterways, railroad tracks, pipelines and recently constructed utility lines. It spreads by seed in hay, on vehicles or in contaminated seed. The three species are:

    * Russian knapweed. This species has been in North Dakota for many years and infests about 3,500 acres. It's a perennial with black, spreading roots that form new shoots. Its growth characteristics are similar to those of Canada thistle. It's the only one of the three species that causes significant crop losses. It can be identified by the rounded bracts with transparent tips at the base of pink to lavender flowers. Largest infestations are in southwestern North Dakota. The plant is adapted to poorly drained and saline and alkaline soils

    * Spotted knapweed. This species is a short-lived perennial or biennial with a taproot. It can be most easily identified by the black tipped bracts located at the base of the pink- or cream-colored flowers. Typically a problem in rangeland, the weed is also making inroads on no-till and minimum-till crop acres. The plant infests about 1,500 acres in North Dakota. Infestations may remain in a confined location for several years then spread rapidly. It's important to control the weed as soon as it's identified and monitor the location for regrowth.

    * Diffuse knapweed. This is also a short-lived perennial or biennial with a taproot. Its bracts are spiny or crab-like at the base of white- to rose-colored, or sometimes purple, flowers. Diffuse knapweed is difficult to distinguish from spotted knapweed without looking at the bracts. This species infests only 20 acres in North Dakota, but has the potential to spread significantly.

    There is great potential for spread of knapweeds. In Montana and Minnesota, knapweeds infect more acres than leafy spurge. At least one of the three species has been found in 25 counties in North Dakota. People are the major cause of knapweed spread. Producers should exercise caution when using hay from road ditches or purchasing hay from infested areas and land managers need to learn how to identify and control these plants. Timely control now will be very cost effective compared to treating larger acreage later.

    For more information on the knapweeds or purple loosestrife, contact your local office of the NDSU Extension Service. Ask for publication W-1146, "Know Your Knapweeds," or W-1132, "Identification and Control of Purple Loosestrife." Graphic accompanies this story in hard copy and is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ext.nodak.edu./extnews/newsrelease/1998/060498/01index.htm

Rod Lym
NDSU Weed Science

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