Covington County Soil and Water District needs help with Cogongrass

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2019

With Cogongrass becoming an increasing problem for forestry in Covington County, the Covington County Soil and Water District asked the county commission for $20,000 to help with their Cogongrass control program.

“We definitely have a problem with this plant in the county,” Dale Falk with the Covington County Forestry Planning Committee said. “This plant highly threatens the forestry industry if we leave it unchecked.”

Cogongrass is one of the 10 worst weeds in the world because it can destroy entire ecosystems.

The grass grows in circular clumps and is identifiable by its fluffy, white, plume-like seedheads in the spring and the sharply pointed root ends. It produces an exorbitant amount of heat when burned, which can kill tree populations in forests.

It was originally introduced to Alabama near Grand Bay in 1911 as seed in packing material from Japan. Since then, it has spread through four defined methods: mowing, motor graders on dirt roads; the logging and timber industry, and by air.

Local soil conservationist Chris Mead estimated that there are 1,458 sites of undocumented Cogongrass in Covington County, which is 532 acres.

“Only one of those sites stretches over 40 acres,” Mead said. “And there are a lot more undocumented sites.”

The main goal for Mead is education and awareness.

“We want to send professionals to people’s houses that have Cogongrass,” Mead said. “We want people to know what it is, what it looks like and how they can prevent it from growing.”

Mead said that the process to eliminate the plant is daunting.

“It takes three years to completely eliminate Cogongrass,” Mead said. “We have to go in there and spray it for three years. There was a $3 million grant that the State of Alabama provided to counties to develop a database of the amount of Cogongrass that needed to be sprayed and they would go in there and spray it. Covington County did not get sprayed.”

Since the spray program is a pilot program, Mead hopes that it will into a statewide project.

“Our ultimate goal is to get funded by the state,” Mead said. “We have several grants already that help with the funding, but we need help. By contributing, we will be able to do more work and apply for more grants. We hope to utilize every county so that we can get this Cogongrass situation under control.”

Landowners with Cogongrass can complete an application at the Covington County Soil & Water District Office located in the Service Center at 23952 Hwy 55, Suite 1, Andalusia, Alabama 36420. For more information call 334-222-3519, Ext 3.

While the district will pay for most of the eradication effort, there is a cost-sharing component, based upon the size of the area to be treated.

The Covington County Commission did not act on the proposal but decided to wait until their budget meeting to see if they can include it.