After Palmer amaranth was recently spotted for the first time in Knox County, northeast of Columbus, the land owner, along with his neighbors and others, came together — 26 in all — and scouted the fields, yanking out the weed as they went.
Carrying machetes or pruning clippers, they walked through damp, nearly chest-high soybean fields determined to yank out or cut down the weed. It was like an army approaching the enemy.
“It’s something everyone is kind of scared of — and should be,” said John Barker, Knox County Extension educator. “It’s a nasty weed.”
Before the slashing, they consulted Mark Loux, a weed specialist with Ohio State University Extension.
“They looked at me and said, ‘What are our options?’ I said, ‘You’re going to have to pull it all out. You’ll regret it if you don’t,’” Loux said.
Palmer amaranth is not native to Ohio. It entered Ohio fields through manure from local livestock that were fed contaminated cottonseed products from the South, as well as through farm equipment previously used on a contaminated field. The weed is far less common in Ohio than waterhemp or other troublesome weeds, including giant ragweed and marestail, but farmers particularly loathe Palmer amaranth. The weed can grow up to three inches a day, and since one plant can produce so many seeds, if it is not removed in time, it will spread.
Last year some soybean fields had to be mowed down in early August because Palmer amaranth took over the fields, Loux said.
“These are weeds that if you miss your timing for fighting them, you’re done,” Loux said.
Since it was first spotted in Ohio in 2009, Palmer amaranth has been found in 25 of Ohio’s 88 counties, Loux said. Five years ago, Palmer amaranth was reported in only one.