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Invasive plant is giving farmers grief

Ontario Phragmites Working Group established to deal with invasive plant

By Amanda Brodhagen,

There is an invasive plant spreading across Ontario that is becoming an issue for the farming community. Phragmites australis (type of grass) which is also known as “Canada’s worst invasive plant,” has been found in certain parts of the province, particularly in Eastern Canada, and is now becoming a nuisance to Ontario farmers.

Phragmites was the topic that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the province’s largest farm group addressed in its most recent commentary sent out on Friday. OFA says it fully supports the efforts that the Ontario Phragmites Working Group is doing in order to tackle the invasive species issue.

The working group has already outlined four recommendations on how to mitigate the spread of phragmites. OFA hopes that policy makers at Queen’s Park will take action on the recommendations provided by the group in order to prevent the invasive plant from spreading any further.

Four recommendations:

  • Permits for herbicides
  • Approval of aerial treatment application
  • Establishing a province-wide control program
  • Creating an Invasive Species Act for Ontario

The invasive plant spreads rapidly, “sending shoots in all directions”. To make matters worse, the plant also releases toxins from its roots, causing surrounding plants to lose access to important nutrients. One of the obstacles about trying to combat phragmites, is the remedy and approach. For example, herbicides are considered the most effective option, but it can’t be used near waterways. This is problematic, especially since the plant is often found growing in those delicate areas.

In addition, the herbicide options that do work, are not currently available in Canada, and are only registered in the United States. These problems combined is what prompted the creation of the Ontario Phragmites Working Group.

“If we ignore this invader, we’ll all pay for the loss of wetland habitat, reduction in biodiversity, impact on private landowners and farmers.  Ontario has already lost hundreds of habitat acres to Phragmites,” OFA said in its Sept. 26 weekly commentary.

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