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Efforts to Protect Roadside Vegetation

Updated: Tuesday, April 22 2014, 04:17 PM CDT

MARION, IA (CBS 2/ FOX 28)- Linn County officials want to protect roadside vegetation but they say that some common farm practices such as illegal mowing and encroachment of crops into public rights of way are reducing the benefits of having ditches alongside dirt roads.

"We are asking for permission," Curt Zingula, Natural Resources Chair for Linn County Farm Bureau said."Permission to go in where we see Canadian thistle, maybe giant ragweed that sort of thing and try and help the county get those under control."

Zingula believes that if the county would let farmers "spot mow" or pull weeds from the ditches, then he wouldn't have to worry about the weeds flying into his fields.

"A farmer's biggest concern about roadside vegetation would be the weeds. We don't want that in our fields," he said.

Zingula added that there are farmers who spot mow, but the county discourages it.

One Iowa code prohibits the growing of crops within the right of way. Another code doesn't allow farmers to mow roadside ditches after July 15th, with the exception of corporate city limits.

The county wants to preserve the benefits of roadside ditches which include homes for wildlife habitat and the ability to slow down runoff from heavy rain.

If the farmers and county worked together, Zingula believes that there wouldn't be this problem.

 "One of the issues we have been dealing with is encroachment," said Steve Gannon, Linn County Engineer. Encroachment refers to the planting of crops in ditches.

City officials say some farmers are doing that but every summer officials replant appropiate plant species in the ditches. And they will again this summer.

Planting native species like the prairie seed helps grow the vegetation in the ditchs, according to the county.

County officials just want to focus on preserving the roadside ditches for vegetation and wildlife. As well as help drivers when they need a recovery area alongside the road.

Ditches are also used for drainage from fields and speed up runoff after heavy rains.

The county is concerned about water management and infiltratio as road surfaces may become damaged from runoff, according to county officials.

But overall, county officials and farmers are trying to prevent soil erosion.

"The native seeding really take a lot of effort to get those establish and if they are not established, then we will have the weeds and erosion," Zingula said.

Efforts to Protect Roadside Vegetation

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