New villains appear on Alberta’s most-wanted weed list

LACOMBE, Alta. — Carpets of chickweed and clumps of canola are among the top weeds showing up in Alberta fields.

The 2017 weed survey conducted in cultivated fields in Alberta showed weed densities in 2010 and 2017 were the lowest recorded.

Chickweed was ranked No. 1 on a list of 25 weeds for the first time partly because of high density and uniformity in occurrence fields, said a report prepared jointly by Agriculture Canada, Alberta Agriculture and the University of Alberta.

Surveyors checked 1,260 fields of canola, spring wheat, durum, barley, oats, peas and lentils and counted weeds in 20 spots per field in late summer. Each spot measured 50 centimetres by 50 cm.

Foxtail barley and stork’s bill have steadily increased over time and appeared in the top 25 for the first time in 2017.

The survey runs about every five years.

Different growing conditions from one year to the next may encourage some weeds to force their way through more than others. Weed locations also vary, weed specialist Chris Neeser of Alberta Agriculture said during Canolapalooza held in Lacombe.

Southern Alberta has more trouble with kochia, and cleavers are not that common while nettles are seen in the central part of the province.

Very few are native plants with the exception of foxtail barley and pigweed.

“Almost all the weeds you find in cultivated crops were brought over from Europe during the early settlement,” he said.

Weeds never go away but farmers are getting better at controlling them.

“In the ’70s and ’80s, we didn’t have nearly as many control options and people are more educated about how you use them and more farmers are relying on agrologists so weed control is getting better,” he said.

A separate survey for resistance to herbicides was done but results have not yet been released.

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