Jim Hoge has helped to weed out a growing problem in Johnson County for 16 years.
He is the noxious weed director for Johnson County with a small office at the Johnson County Department of Public Works campus in west Olathe.
Each year, he must advise the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners regarding how much acreage has been infested with noxious weeds and how he plans to curtail the weeds. On Thursday, March 11, he presented the Annual Noxious Weed Eradication Progress Report for 2020 and the Annual Noxious Weed Management Plan for 2022 to the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners for approval.
After more than 25 years of experience in lawn care and landscaping, including managing a major Johnson County nursery, Hoge has been Johnson County government’s “weed guy” since 2005. His job is to administer and enforce the Kansas Noxious Weed Law by helping to eradicate or control noxious weeds in Johnson County.
That means Hoge knows noxious weeds, and more importantly, how to get rid of them on public or private land. Noxious weeds are found in Johnson County on farms with large acreage and on residential property with far more smaller plots.
“We control noxious weeds because they affect the safety and abundance of our food supplies, clean drinking water and recreational opportunities,” Hoge said.
In his Annual Noxious Weed Eradication Progress Report, Hoge estimates Johnson County has almost 15,347 acres of noxious weeds. The infestations involve four of the 12 noxious weeds now identified by the state of Kansas. The state began identifying and eradicating certain prevalent noxious weeds under a law first enacted in 1937.
Johnsongrass is the main noxious weed in the county, infesting an estimated 6,115 acres. Johnsongrass was named after an Alabama plantation owner, Colonel William Johnson, who planted the first seeds of the grass, now a noxious weed in his name, to control erosion on his river bottom land around 1840. He’s not related to the Rev. Thomas Johnson, the namesake of Johnson County.
Musk thistle ranks second with almost 5,900 acres. The other two noxious weeds are sericea lespedeza, involving approximately 3,100-plus acres, and field bindweed with only 216 acres.
“Noxious weeds can grow anywhere. People can get musk thistle and johnsongrass in their lawn,” he said.
Noxious weeds are found on public-owned land, such as right-of-ways of roadways and state, county and city parks. Much of the infested acreage remains in private ownership of ranchers, farmers and landowners, mostly in the western and southern sections of the county.
The eradication progress report noted that “in 2020, the survey sections were split 50% incorporated land to 50% unincorporated land.” The bulk of the acreage with noxious weeds was on private land, totaling an estimated 13,776 acres.
Efforts to eradicate or control weeds usually begin in early-to-mid-spring before the growing season of the noxious plants and last until late October to inhibit seeding from the weedy pests.
In its ongoing efforts to control and eradicate noxious weeds, the office offers seven types of herbicides at discounted costs. The chemicals are available to Johnson County residents only to treat the four species of noxious weeds in the county.
“We do not sell herbicides to control vegetation in gravel driveways, patios, fence lines, etc.,” Hoge said.
Although they are a lawn pest, dandelions are not on the list that qualifies for discounted herbicides.
“They are not a noxious weed,” Hoge said, adding neither are clover or crabgrass. Chemicals to kill these common weeds are available elsewhere.
As a service to property owners, the office provides rental sprayers to apply herbicides to eradicate noxious weeds.
Hoge also is available to answer “anything from horticulture to agriculture” regarding weeds, noxious or not, and to ensure weed control efforts, such as spraying, will be done safely and correctly.
The Noxious Weed Office is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s best to call first at 913-715-8358 for purchasing herbicides, renting spraying equipment or meeting the Noxious Weed Director.
The Department of Public Works campus is located at 1800 West Old Highway 56. It’s two miles west of I-35 and half a mile west of Kansas 7 Highway or Lone Elm Road.