Residents at war with weeds
November 24, 2008
CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Tumbleweeds cover a car in the driveway of a home on Circle Drive on Monday. Sabrina Farmer said the tumbleweed problem is the worst she’s seen in the eight years she lived on Circle Drive.
In the eight years Sabrina Farmer has lived in northwest Clovis, she has become accustomed to large, windblown piles of tumbleweeds collecting on her property.
This year it seems like the piles of tumbleweeds at her Circle Drive home are bigger and the chore of removing the foreign invader endless, she said.
Farmer said her family filled four city Dumpsters with tumbleweeds in an hour and a half Sunday and “it didn’t really even make a dent.”
Farmer said she is searching for a solution for disposing of the spiny nuisances.
“People don’t know what to do with them, and I haven’t found anybody who does know,” she said.
Clovis Public Works Director Clint Bunch said there is no recourse against the weeds that blow into town from the rangeland that surrounds the city. It’s just something that has to be dealt with. He said the city is only responsible for removal of tumbleweeds on public property.
“It’s just the way it is really,” he said. “(For most people), it wasn’t their weed to begin with, most people just (put them back out in the wind).”
City workers will clear alleys and roadways of tumbleweeds, but Bunch said placing them in Dumpsters is problematic because the clingy, lightweight plants are hard to remove from receptacles and often have to be removed by hand.
Bunch suggests residents load tumbleweeds into a trailer or the bed of a truck, crush them, and take them to the landfill.
Several different plants are characterized under the non-scientific term “tumbleweed,” but the Russian Thistle is the predominate contributor in the region, according to desertusa.com.
In the autumn months after flowering, the plant dries and breaks away from its roots, rolling in the wind, spreading seeds as it goes, according to Sangu Angadi, a crop stress physiologist with the New Mexico State University research center in Clovis.
“There is no easy answer. It has to be controlled right in the field and it can grow anywhere. Then the wind direction brings it into the cities,” Angadi said.
Thistle plants have been studied for possible use in biofuel because they are capable of producing a “significant” biomass, but the plant by its nature is difficult to harness, he said.
“Many call it poor man’s alfalfa. It’s not a bad plant if we can find a way to use it,” he said.
• Tumbleweed: a plant (as Russian thistle or any of several amaranths) that breaks away from its roots in the autumn and is driven about by the wind as a light rolling mass.