Missourians Making a Difference: Interview with Andrew Turner

April 3, 2023 | Missourians Making a Difference, News

Missourians Making a Difference: Andrew Turner, Southeast District Roadside Manager, Missouri Department of Transportation

Andrew Turner

Throughout Missouri are many individuals making significant progress in the early detection and control of invasive plants. The Missouri Invasive Plant Council (MoIP) is pleased to highlight their work!

Andrew Turner, Southeast District Roadside Manager, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and MoIP Council member, took time out of his busy schedule to describe his invasive plant control work. Enjoy! —Carol Davit, MoIP Chair

Please give us a summary of the invasive plant control work you are overseeing in southeastern Missouri. Who is involved? 

The Invasive Species Strike Team is a first-of-its-kind pilot project to show that a dedicated crew using specialized equipment can efficiently, effectively, and economically control invasive plants along roadsides in southeastern Missouri. The project is a joint partnership between MoDOT’s Southeast District, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. We operate two crews consisting of four people each operating custom sprayers. Crews are strategically located on the east and west sides of the district to effectively cover the 25-county region.

How did you choose the routes to treat? 

We focus on major four-lane routes in the MoDOT Southeast District. These routes were prioritized because they have larger, well-established populations of our target species. By taking out the larger seed sources, we can more effectively control the spread onto the secondary routes. These secondary routes more often lead to more ecologically intact and sensitive habitats, agricultural lands, and priority natural communities that need to be protected from invasive species. We utilize a scout and spray method to more effectively, efficiently, and economically cover as much area as possible.

Since the Strike Team began this work along state highway rights of way, how many acres or miles have you covered?

Since the Invasive Species Strike Team began operating in September 2020, the crews have monitored over 30,000 acres, treated over 3,000 miles, and physically sprayed over 8,000 acres.

What are the most common invasive plants you and your crews are encountering, and how do you treat them?

We commonly encounter on the roadside are common and cut-leaf teasel, spotted knapweed, Johnson grass, serecia lespedeza, and Japanese honeysuckle. Since starting this spraying effort, we have also expanded our target list to include crown vetch, sweet clover, Japanese stilt grass, perilla mint, bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and Callery pear. We treat them by using a scout and spray approach. This method allows us to be more effective and treat a larger geographical area.

What equipment do you use? 

We use four Can Am Defender 6×6 UTVs outfitted with custom injection sprayers. The custom injection sprayers allow us to carry and apply three separate, very selective herbicides. This capability allows us to selectively spray most species we come across in a single pass.

Which species are you focusing on this spring? Which invasives do you target and treat each season?

Our main targets for spring are going to be species in their basal rosette stage, including teasle, knapweed, and thistles. Treating them before they develop stems and flowers prevents them from setting seed, and, less herbicide is needed to treat them. We will also start foliar treatments for woody species, such as Callery pear and bush honeysuckle, as soon as the opportunity presents itself. In mid- to late May until September, we add serecia and Johnson grass to our target list. Late fall and wintertime, when conditions and weather allow, we turn our focus back to teasle, knapweed, and thistles.

Will this work be expanded statewide?

I hope so. The work the Invasive Species Strike Team has done in our district over the last three years has proven this team can effectively, efficiently, and economically treat invasive plants along Missouri’s roadsides. The crews in Southeast District have reduced populations of certain species by 80 to 90%, and are on their way to achieving control of a few species in certain areas.

If citizens have questions or comments about invasive plants they may see along MoDOT roadsides, how do they contact MoDOT?

If citizens have concerns, questions, or comments about invasive plants along MoDOT rights of way, they can call 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1 (888) 275-6636) or use the online form at https://www.modot.org/contact-us.

Support MoIP, the Grow Native! Program, and the Missouri Prairie Foundation

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