With warmer than average temperatures in South Dakota and several other northern states, landowners need to get their noxious weeds under control earlier than ever this season.

But control logistics are making this a challenge, at least in South Dakota, said Paul Johnson, SDSU Extension weed science coordinator. He said the noxious weeds are maturing three weeks earlier than normal, making it even more vital that landowners get a handle on controlling them.

"With the warm temperatures spring pasture spraying should begin soon for biennial thistle and wormwood sage—both noxious weeds. Controlling noxious weeds is the law; however, because there are fewer commercial spray businesses operating in South Dakota, many landowners are having a difficult time scheduling to have their pastures sprayed," Johnson said.

"Although Canada thistle and spurge are still real small, landowners need to watch closely because these noxious weeds are about three weeks ahead of normal this season," he said. "Not being able to find a sprayer is not a valid reason not to spray these noxious weeds."  

Restrictions may play a role in the fact that many commercial spray businesses are no longer spraying pastures. "If they are, there may be restrictions on the time they will spray, what products they will spray or they may only spray if they also have all of the rest of your (farmer) spraying business," Johnson said. "These restrictions are making spraying pastures more difficult and limited."

If a landowner is unable to schedule a commercial sprayer and is faced with the task of controlling weeds, Johnson is reminding South Dakota landowners/ranchers that in order to spray they must have a Private Pesticide Applicator card.

"Today, anyone who has a farm (in South Dakota) that has the potential to gross more than $1,000 of income from their farm is required to have this certification to apply any pesticide to their property, whether or not they are restricted use pesticides," he said.

To complicate pasture spraying even more by private landowners is the requirement that when applying restricted use pesticides, landowners also need to keep application records for two years following the date they were applied. Johnson is also reminding landowners in his state that they also should have an emergency response plan developed for their farm if they are spraying.