The North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) has confirmed there have been two new discoveries of the noxious weed Palmer amaranth in two counties – Sioux and Grant.
“They are still trying to determine the source – it is under active investigation,” said Michelle Mielke, communications director for the NDDA.
But Joe Ikley, NDSU Extension weed specialist, said the discoveries were linked to contaminated feed screenings being fed to cattle.
“There were additional Palmer infestations confirmed in Sioux and Grant counties the week of Sept. 13. In both cases, the ranchers had purchased sunflower screenings that were contaminated with Palmer seed,” Ikley said.
In one operation, Palmer amaranth could be found “everywhere that feed rations were mixed and spread.”
The NDDA issued a statement saying they received numerous calls from producers impacted by the drought needing feed who stated that they understood the risks associated with screenings and that they need to have good weed management in place.”
The department also stated they have worked with processors to establish testing protocols for screenings to minimize or eliminate the risk of noxious weeds going back out as livestock feed.
Ikley said many producers knowingly purchase sunflower screenings each year for cheap cattle feed, and have for a long time.
“What is new is that we have been importing sunflower screenings from out of state that are contaminated with Palmer seed. The best advice at this time is to ask questions about the origin of sunflower screenings that are being purchased. If they originate from outside of ND, there’s a good chance they also contain Palmer seed,” he said.
Ikley is also encouraging producers to scout around their feed piles and feeding sites for Palmer amaranth plants.
“We also encourage everyone to continue scouting for potential Palmer amaranth infestations as we close out the summer and get ready to harvest the rest of our crops,” he said.
Producers should call their county agent if they discover what may be Palmer amaranth in feed screenings.