The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hoping to add an innovative weapon to its arsenal used to battle Canada thistle, an invasive weed and long-time thorn in the side of federal land managers.
The Service's Midwest region has joined forces with the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center to study seed planting techniques that could minimize the noxious weed in tallgrass prairie restoration projects on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.
The National Wildlife Refuge System has an active habitat restoration program and annually seeds thousands of acres in the upper Midwest to native plant species. In 2003, the Service's Midwest Region restored 26,690 wetland acres and 7,394 upland acres, primarily on refuges and wetland management districts in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Over the next year, the Service will be testing various prairie seed mixtures on three sites in Minnesota and one in Iowa to determine if certain mixtures can reduce or eliminate Canada thistle from restored areas.
"The goal of the research is to compare the ability of differing seed mixes and application techniques to suppress Canada thistle establishment in new restorations," said Tim Yager, ecosystem biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System at Fort Snelling.
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