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Noxious weeds invade ecosystems and have far-reaching consequences on the environment

Garlic Mustard Summit County.PNG
Summit County, Utah
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Garlic Mustard

Let the games begin. The Garlic Mustard Games, that is. KPCW has this report on noxious, invasive weeds and how you can help manage them.

Last year, volunteers in Summit County pulled more than 2,000 pounds of garlic mustard, a noxious weed prevalent in the Wasatch Back.

It grows in shady, moist soils, often under pine trees. It can take over areas by strangling native plant growth.

Garlic mustard releases a chemical that represses other plant growth by changing the soil balance. When that happens, native species like pine trees will die, fueling more severe wildfires.

Ecologist and Founder of Ecology Bridge Sara Jo Dickens said research on how long garlic mustard chemicals remain in the soil is unknown.

"It grows fast. It takes over fast, right? And so, it replaces a very important diversity of plants that support our wildlife. It puts chemicals in the soil that inhibit the germination of other plants, which is pretty important because it can last in the soil, and we don't know how long. So, our bacteria and our fungi that most of our native species will rely on, and this is super important for our conifer species. They need that fungus to reach deeper and farther away sources of water.”

Ecology Bridge provides plant survey services, land management, and environmental compliance consultation.

Garlic mustard is just one of many invasive plant species that can be effectively controlled by pulling it up and reducing chemical treatments to eradicate the weeds. Dickens’ organization is part of a cooperative weed management group covering Summit and Wasatch County.

“In doing that control work, when we look at the thousands of acres that we are working on, it's not possible to control our noxious weeds completely chemically free. Logistically speaking, it's just not possible. And so, one way that we can reduce the amount of herbicide that we use is to reach out to our public and ask for their assistance. And so, we developed the garlic mustard games."

Dickens said they have raffles and awards for the biggest pullers during each Garlic Mustard Games event. So far, there are 12 scheduled throughout the Park City area.

“Garlic Mustard games are so important because we only have so much funding from the  state, and we really need as much help as possible, and it's an easy plant to pull. It's a lot of fun. And then when you weigh a bag, you're like, Dude, I just pulled 40 pounds of this weed. You really feel good about yourself. Like as a group, you turn around, and you're like, oh my god, I can see the ground now. And you can see other plants that you've freed from this garlic mustard attack.”

For more information about invasive plants, identifying them, and volunteering for the Garlic Mustard Games, go to summitcwma.org.