Sask. Polytechnic research project aims to eradicate local noxious weed

By Tyler Marr
April 15, 2018 - 8:44am Updated: April 17, 2018 - 10:20am

Its dark green leaves and bright pink and white flowers may seem appealing, but don’t be fooled by the Himalayan Balsam.

The plant, which is a rapidly growing annual that was brought to North America from the Himalayan mountain range as a garden ornamental, has grown out of control inside the city and is devastating native species. This is in part due to its lack of natural predators and its ability to survive the winter. 

Because of this, two students are working to devise an optimal means to eradicate it. Cole Tomlinson and Jeremy Toon recently spoke to city council about their research project at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. The two said they have studied a small chunk of land in the East end of the city, about 20 per cent, and yielded estimates of 400,000 plants.

“It is already out on control,” Toon said. “Our further job is to create more locations where it is present and to create more concern from the public.”

The plant can grow upwards of three meters tall and can produce over 700 seeds, which outcompetes native vegetation during pollination season. 

The two outlined three means of removal; mechanical, biological and chemical. Each has pros and cons, dependant on location. 

While mechanical is the safest for the surrounding ecosystem, a large labour force and contamination treatment would be needed. Proper disposal — bagging, burning or burial — would also need to be taken. Chemical control could be used for an effective total eradication. However, with the plants growing near streams, the chemicals could contaminate the waterways. Biological control methods have shown positive outcomes, but need further studies, the two said.

Last year, the city banned the sale of the plant and continue to pressure the provincial government to classify it as a noxious weed.

Council unanimously accepted the information and it will be forwarded to the community services department to devise plans going ahead.


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