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Satellite technology finds intrusive weeds

By Roger Batt
Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign

MERIDIAN – Noxious weeds can create extensive damage to our environment. This cancer of our land spreads rapidly, choking out crops and native plants, providing poor habitat for deer and other animals. These unwanted plants cause $300 million in direct damages to the state‚s economy and undermine the productivity of 64 crops grown nationwide.

Once noxious weeds get a foothold into an area, they can be hard to control. It can be difficult to recover native habitat from the invasion of noxious weeds.

Finding infestations when they are small and easy to attack is critical in preventing the spread of noxious weeds to other areas. Identification and location; rigorous and aggressive control efforts, followed by an active re-population of the native species can be a time consuming and costly venture.

In certain areas of the Pacific Northwest, invasive plant species spread to rugged remote areas of the mountains, remaining undetected by the inaccessibility of the wilderness. Discovery of these unwanted pests currently rely upon:

  • Landowner‚s notification (public or private land) to state or local weed management officials.
  • Casual visitors such as hikers who stumble upon the problem.
  • Sightings from airplanes or helicopters.

"Finding new infestations of noxious weeds in their infant stage of environmental damage is key to effective weed control, said Jeffrey Pettingill", County Weed Superintendent for Bonneville County.

Counties have been developing support tools that enable the detection of noxious weeds using remote sensing technology as part of a research grant awarded under the NASA Earth Science Enterprise of 2001. The primary goal of the project is to detect noxious weeds in patches that are small enough that they can be controlled economically and swiftly.

Using satellite imagery, Idaho will be able to detect early infestations and eradicate them before they spread to new areas. This cost-effective method of detection is very valuable to Idaho‚s lands and its future.

For more information on noxious weeds or to report noxious weed infestations, call the Idaho Weed Awareness Hotline number at 1-866-IDWEEDS or contact your County Weed Superintendent for technical expertise in controlling noxious weeds.

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