In whitetop-infested areas, grass and other desirable plants are robbed of the energy required to put on early spring growth and thrive throughout the growing season. With this year’s dry spring, whitetop is quickly utilizing what moisture and nutrients are available, which will substantially reduce forage and hay production – not just for 2012 but into the future.
Whitetop is a perennial plant in the mustard family that grows and blooms in the early spring, releases seed, and then goes dormant for the rest of the season. It reproduces through a creeping root system and heavy seed production and is often moved from place to place through contaminated hay or equipment, manure and irrigation water. While the root system accounts for upwards of 75 percent of the plant, its seed longevity is estimated at five years.
There are no biological agents available for whitetop control, and few animals will graze on it. Mowing creates plants that bloom ever closer to the ground – well below the mower blade – and produces more shoots to make up for the shorter plants. Repeated hand pulling can be effective on small or early infestations and in gardens, but is not effective once the area is large and well established. Repeated tilling, especially in a small area, can eventually eliminate whitetop, but tilling must be repeated for more than one season.
Treating whitetop with herbicide is the most effective way to control it. Once a program has been started, landowners are encouraged to participate for three consecutive years.
For more information and to sign up for the Whitetop control cost share program, contact Sheila Grother in San Miguel County at 327-0399 or Laurie Mingen in Montrose County at 249-5216.