Report on Mile-a-Minute (MaM) Vine Infestation In And Near The LaGrange Town Park

 

August 25, 2007

 

 

Summary- Mile-a-Minute (MaM) vine has infested the Town of LaGrange Park and many adjacent properties. Figure 1 shows the known extent of the infestation and property lines on an aerial orthophoto from 2004. At least 5 acres have been infested in an area near Jackson Creek. Efforts to remove the vine in 2007 has only had limited success. Because of the nature of MaM the infestation will continue for at least 5 years regardless of what is done now. Next years infestation is expected to be much worse than this year’s outbreak. Left unchecked the infestation could spread rapidly throughout southern Dutchess County along the Jackson Creek-Sprout Creek-Fishkill Creek drainage corridor. Spread of the infestation would create significant environmental and agricultural damage across southern Dutchess County. An organized, regional, multi-year action plan should be developed quickly and implemented next spring.

 

Background- In mid-July of 2007 Emilie Hauser, NYSDEC notified Rick Oestrike of a MaM infestation at the Town of LaGrange Park. Within days Rick confirmed the infestation and noted that some of the MaM was already forming seeds. These seeds form as small berries, light green when immature and dark blue when mature. The berries float in water and can rapidly spread MaM by floating down local streams. Birds also eat the berries and can deposit the seeds in outlying areas. Each vine can produce 200 to 300 berries in a year. Unfortunately, once the seeds are deposited in the soil they can remain viable for at least 5 years. Thus, the infestation in LaGrange will return for at least 5 years. Spot checks upstream and downstream along Jackson Creek failed to find any other infestations. No investigation has been conducted to determine how and when the infestation was brought to the Town of LaGrange Park area. This is only the second area of MaM infestation in Dutchess County, the other in the Town of Dover.

 

Efforts During 2007- An ad hoc effort to address the MaM infestation in and around the Town of LaGrange Park was organized by Rick Oestrike (Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee) and Maung Htoo (Town of LaGrange CAC). These efforts had only limited success due to the following obstacles-

 

Some limited progress was made in 2007 with efforts focused along stream banks, to reduce the probability of spread, and around trees and shrubs, that can be killed by the vine. It is estimated that 35% to 40% of the infested area was removed this year but that only 10% to 15% of the vine was removed. The difference in percentages is due to the fact that lightly infested regions along Jackson Creek were addressed first. The vines that went to seed this year should make the infestation worse next year.

 

Options For Control of MaM-

 

Hand-Pulling- Because MaM is an annual plant, hand-pulling before it goes to seed, is an effective way to control the plant for one season. However, hand-pulling is very labor intensive and must include the removal of the root to be effective. Mr. Scott Sheeley, NYSDEC Permit Division, recommends a “minor” permit for hand-pulling within the wetlands and the 100-foot buffer. This permit should be approved within 45 days. Figure 1 shows the state regulated wetland (PV-54) in the area of infestation.

Mechanical Cutting- Mechanical cutting and periodic recutting of the MaM vines is also an effective means of control. However, cutting must begin before seed formation and recutting must be done frequently enough to suppress seed formation. Recutting must continue until the vine dies in the fall. Mechanical cutting in both the wetland and the 100 foot buffer zone will require a permit from NYSDEC. This permit should take approximately 3 months to be approved. Cutting can be done by lawn tractors in some areas, brush hogs in others and gasoline powered weed wackers in still other areas.

Biocontrol- Researchers are investigating the possibility of controlling MaM with an insect or disease that only affects the vine. So far, no such alternative has been discovered.

Herbicides- Herbicides with the active ingredient glyphosphate are effective against MaM vine. However, these herbicides are non-specific and will kill all plants with green leaves on which it is applied. In addition a NYSDEC permit must be obtained for herbicide applications in state regulated wetlands and their 100-foot buffer zone. This permit should take approximately 3 months to be approved.

 

Recommendations- With the cooperation of affected property owners, adjacent Towns, Dutchess County, New York State and NGOs the Town of LaGrange should quickly develop a regional, multi-year action plan to address the MaM infestation. The goal of the plan should be to prevent the plants from producing seeds (berries) until the infestation disappears in 5 or more years. The action plan should include the following parts-

1)      General Strategy

2)      Coordinator/Lead Agency

3)      Allocation of Resources

4)      Mapping and Monitoring

5)      Postpone Reshaping of Jackson Creek

6)      Public Education and Outreach

7)      Preventative Procedures

 

A general strategy should be agreed on for all entities involved in this project. Either an individual coordinator or a lead agency should be appointed. This person/agency must have the authority to spend money and reassign additional personnel on short notice. Each entity involved in the project should allocate resources to the effort (personnel, equipment, money, etc.). An aggressive mapping and monitoring program is an important part of the project. Mapping will allow small infestations in nearby areas to be located and destroyed before they spread. Monitoring will allow the condition of the infestation to be understood (vines sprouting, vines flowering, vines forming berries, etc.). The proposal to reshape Jackson Creek in order to allow it to flow freely in this area must be postponed. A free flowing creek will almost certainly lead to the rapid spread of MaM vines down the Jackson Creek-Sprout Creek-Fishkill Creek drainage corridor and from there throughout much of southern Dutchess County. This is consistent with a conclusion of the study of Jackson Creek by Trout Unlimited dated 6/3/07. In the Trout Unlimited report it is stated that reshaping Jackson Creek should only occur “once the primary causes (of erosion) are corrected upstream”, and these causes have not yet been resolved. Once the infestation has been eliminated, Jackson Creek can be reshaped. Public education and outreach about Mile-a-Minute vine is an important part of the mapping process and will help to ensure cooperation of the public. Preventative procedures must be established and enforced for any and all equipment entering infested areas. Remember, seeds in the soil are viable for at least 5 years. Equipment must be cleaned thoroughly before it leaves infested areas to avoid the spread of seeds to new areas.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Rick Oestrike, Ph.D.

(845) 452-1267

39 Crescent Road

Poughkeepsie, NY 12601