Foresters use DNA to battle cogongrass -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Foresters use DNA to battle cogongrass


Georgia Forestry Commission foresters are using DNA to identify and fight dangerous invasive plants that are spreading across the Southeastern United States. 

Georgia Forestry Commission Forest Health Specialist Mark McClure checks a long patch of cogongrass at Partridge Pea Plantation in Terrell County. This time of year it's easy to spot that seed head. A logger accidentally showed just how easily the invasive plant can be spread, when just pulling a tree through cogongrass infected everywhere it touched.

McClure said "It can really spread. So when they were cutting the timber and dragging the timber to the loading deck, by dragging through the original spot it scattered it through the woods."

Cogongrass arrived in the United States from Asia in the early 1900-s on board ships, and today the fight to stop it's spread is determined.

McClure said "very invasive as you can see the very dense root mass. It just chokes out, creates a mono culture. Eliminates all the other natural vegetation on the site."

Cogongrass not only kills most other plants, but no animals will eat it....and it is a tremendous fire hazard.

Partridge Pea Plantation owner Dr. Glenn Dowling said "When this stuff dries and you burn it, it almost explodes. ".

Today Georgia Forestry and other agencies are teaming with Texas A & M University researcher Dr. Millie Burrell, who is mapping DNA to fight cogongrass.

McClure said "We send her samples and she's doing basically keeping up with a total number of families of cogongrass across the entire southeast. So maybe with that information we can come up with another way to fight it in years to come."

Dr. Dowling said he's glad to see that kind of innovation used to fight such a dangerous invader.

"If it crosses with some other type of plant that lives in cold weather also, then it might spread worse. So DNA would be a great start to find out how to get rid of it."

McClure says Georgia Forestry has identified 48 new cogongrass locations, and two thirds of those are in Southwest Georgia. 

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