Lowcountry farmers, landowners urged to attend meeting about noxious weed
CLEMSON — New regulations resulting from the discovery of a damaging weed that can choke out some of South Carolina’s most profitable crops will be the subject of a meeting for farmers and landowners 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 25 at the Dorchester County Cooperative Extension Office, 201 Johnston St., St. George.
Officials with the Clemson University Department of Plant Industry (DPI) scouted fields in Dorchester, Colleton, Orangeburg and Bamberg counties Oct. 5-9, and discovered the noxious weed Benghal dayflower, which also is known as “tropical spiderwort” and Commelina benghalensis. Benghal dayflower steals nutrients from row crops like soybeans, corn, cotton and peanuts, and can seriously reduce crop yields.
On Jan. 15, DPI will issue regulations limiting the movement of Dorchester County soil and crops to avoid spreading the weed.
“We’re going to explain in great detail the effects of the regulations and help farmers and landowners understand how they can gain an exemption. If you’re a farmer or landowner in or around Dorchester County, you should attend this meeting,” said Steven Long, assistant department head with DPI’s plant pest-detection and nursery certification programs.
The meeting is free and open to the public.
Benghal dayflower is identifiable by its egg-shaped leaves, leaf sheaths with red hairs and small flowers. The flowers have three petals: two purple and one white.
While the weed is pretty to look at, it can spread rapidly because it produces seeds both above and below ground and can thrive in both wet and dry conditions. It is also tolerant to glyphosate, the active ingredient found in Roundup, Rodeo, Accord and other pre- and post-emergent herbicides. The unusually wet, warm winter could also mean trouble for the springtime fight against the noxious weed.
“An outbreak of Benghal dayflower could be a disaster for farmers in any year, but especially in a year when they’ve been struggling with historic drought and flooding,” Long said.
Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry is tasked with protecting South Carolina’s agricultural resources and natural ecosystems from introduction and spread of plant and honeybee pests and invasive species. Clemson is seeking $5 million from the state legislature to expand and enhance DPI and many other programs that support economic growth in South Carolina’s $42 billion agribusiness industry.