‘Strike Team’ battles invasive Japanese knotweed

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The bad news: You’ve discovered invasive Japanese knotweed on your property. The good news: The Invasive Species Strike Team is on the case.

Part of the Ottawa Conservation District’s Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, the strike team works to eradicate Japanese knotweed and other invasive plant species on public and private property in seven West Michigan counties. It has been funded by over $700,000 in state grants over the past six years.

For the team, there’s no field too covered, no root too deep and no patch too tough.

“You can see that it’s kind of going all along the roadside and it pushes back into the woods a little bit,” program coordinator Jessica Crawford showed 24 Hour News 8 Thursday as she surveyed work on one patch of knotweed on private property along the lakeshore.    

The two-person strike team’s approach is subtle. They attack invasive species with just rubber gloves, rubber boots and a spray can.

“It’s not a one-and-done treatment. It usually takes anywhere between three and 10-plus years to get it maintained,” Crawford said.

Though it takes time, their punch is lethal to the knotweed, which is extremely difficult to kill.

Japanese knotweed could be described as the cockroach of weeds. Thick-stemmed and deep-rooted, it has no natural predators. If you mow it down or chop it up with a weed whip, it comes back stronger. Once it takes root, controlling it is difficult at best.

The strike team uses an herbicide that has to be reapplied for several seasons. Two seasons after the first application, the team is making progress at the lakeshore site, one of 300 on its list this summer.

“Those are dead knotweed, and then right here, too, is kind of knotweed that has been altered by the chemical,” Crawford pointed out. “It’s still several years out from being completely under control but as you can see, we’re still working on it.”

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