Davison, J., Powell, P., Schultz, B., and Singletary, L. 2012, Needs Assessment for Noxious Weeds in Churchill County: Part 5 of 5-Priority Research and Outreach, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension


This fact sheet is the fifth in a series of five that reports the results of a needs assessment survey completed by faculty in University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE). The survey attempted to identify the major issues related to the management and control of weeds in Nevada. Weeds are consistently identified as a major threat to agricultural production and natural resource values in Nevada.

Churchill County encompasses 5,023 square miles in western Nevada and lies approximately 60 miles east of Reno. Over 89 percent of the land in Churchill County is owned by the federal government. The only incorporated city in Churchill County is Fallon. Churchill County has a total population of 26,859 residents (2009), with 9,113 people residing within the city limits.

The primary agricultural production area is the Lahontan Valley, where the county has defined 210,752 acres as “agricultural” lands. They classified these lands in to four use types. The four types include: cultivated (30,568 acres), pasture (8776 acres), grazing (160,308), and meadow (~11,100). Water rights are assigned to 39,877 acres of these lands. Most of the lands in the county are classified as rangelands or are covered with water (94 square miles).

There were 529 reportable farms in Churchill County in 2009 averaging 248 acres in size. The average farm in Nevada is nearly eight times as large as the average size farm in Churchill County. The total direct output value from the agricultural sectors in Churchill County in 2007 was $122.6 million, of which $54.8 million was related to crop sales and $67.8 million to livestock or livestock product sales. The average economic multiplier value for the agricultural sector was 1.43, meaning that the agriculture sector generated an additional $52.8 million in economic activity for a total economic impact of $175.4 million. In addition, during 2007 the agricultural sectors generated a total of 531 jobs directly tied to agriculture and an additional 446 jobs generated by the economic activity that the agricultural sector provides.

The county includes several transportation corridors including Interstate 80, Highway 50, Highway 93 and two transcontinental rail lines. Churchill County also receives irrigation water from the Carson and Truckee rivers. Both rivers have established populations of several noxious weeds on lands adjacent to these rivers. All of these corridors act as agents for the introduction and spread of noxious weeds. These weeds, if not controlled, pose the real threat of dramatically reducing the yield and quality of the crops produced in Churchill County. Because a majority of the crops produced in Churchill County are used as livestock feed, reductions in livestock and livestock product sales are another possibility. Both factors will negatively impact the economic contributions that the agricultural sectors make to Churchill County.

Survey Methods

In 2008 UNCE faculty mailed a survey to all agricultural producers who reported at least $1,000 of annual income from agriculture. An electronic version of the survey was developed and offered to individuals with weed management responsibilities in all appropriate federal and state agencies within Nevada.

The 88-question survey targeted nine specific weed management issues and is being used to prioritize the most important educational and research programs for UNCE faculty. The results can also be used by other entities charged with weed management to prioritize their activities.

The specific methodologies used for the original survey and analysis are available in UNCE Special Publication SP-10-03. Additional statistical analysis was completed to determine if the responses from Churchill County’s agricultural producers differed significantly from Nevada’s agricultural producers and the public lands weed manger’s responses.

The results of this analysis are presented in a series of five fact sheets including the following themes: 1) problem weeds, the approaches and methods used for their control, 2) problems and obstacles to weed management, 3) the spread, prevention and detection of weeds, 4) herbicides and the criteria used for their selection and timing of use; and 5) priority research and outreach programs.

Results and Discussion

Priorities for Research or Outreach Programs

From the results it is obvious that Cooperative Extension faculty will need to discriminate between audiences when developing and delivering research and outreach programs related to noxious weeds. Agricultural producer needs vary markedly from those charged with managing public lands in Nevada.

The analysis of the survey data revealed no significant difference between the highest priority research and outreach needs related to noxious weed management programs of the agricultural producers in Nevada and Churchill County. However, the research and outreach priorities for both groups of producers differed significantly from those ranked by public land managers (Table 1) in Nevada.

Table 1. Priorities for research/outreach programs for Nevada agricultural producers (n=746), Churchill County agricultural producers (n=164) and public land weed managers (n=52) statewide. Respondents were asked to select their top three topics

  1. For agricultural producers the question was phrased “to establish competitive crops/plants to exclude weeds” and for weed managers on public lands the question was phrased, “revegetate bare/disturbed sites to exclude weeds.”
  2. For agricultural producers the question addressed crop yield or livestock production and for public weed managers the wording stated resource values

*Table here

Both producer groups ranked research and outreach concerning “weed control using herbicides” as the top priority, while public land managers ranked it only sixth out of 11 possible priorities. The top public land managers’ priority was: Establish competitive crops/plants to exclude weeds, while both producer groups ranked it only as their fifth highest priority. These differences are not surprising. Agricultural producers typically look for proven, effective, and rapid solutions to noxious weed infestations impacting their crops and herbicides are usually the technique selected. Public land managers must deal with the relatively greater restrictions placed on the use of herbicides on public lands as compared to private farms. Another factor may also include the desire of many public land managers to minimize the use of any chemicals on the lands they manage. The topic of “weed control using alternative methods” was ranked as the second highest priority by all groups and was the only priority that all three surveyed populations ranked the same. This matches well with the public land mangers top priority previously identified and indicates that agricultural producers desire options beyond using only herbicides in a weed management program. Weed identification was ranked highly by both producer groups but ranked relatively low by the public land managers. This may be because of the fact that many public land managers have academic training in plant identification or have more weed identification resources available within their agency than private individuals. All groups ranked the topic of “prevent weed establishment” as important in a noxious weed management program. The producers ranked it as third or fourth, while the public land managers ranked it as the third most important topic. This topic is regularly presented as an important technique in any noxious weed management program and apparently has been accepted necessary by the groups largely responsible for weed management in Nevada. There was some agreement between the agricultural producers and public land managers regarding the middle three priorities. Integrating herbicides with alternative weed control methods was ranked sixth by the producers and fifth by the public land managers. The management of herbicide resistant or tolerant weeds and economics of weed control varied from seventh to ninth on the priority listing by the surveyed groups. The relatively low ranking (8 and 9) of the subject related to the economics of weed control is somewhat surprising. The detrimental economic impacts from weeds on crop production and the high cost of control are normally cited as reasons to prevent weed invasion and establishment, which was ranked relatively high in this survey. Perhaps the respondents have not personally experienced significant economic or environmental damage from noxious weeds. The subject of “effect of weeds on crop yield or livestock production or resource values” was ranked next to last by the Nevada agricultural producers, eighth by the Churchill County agricultural producers and seventh by the public land managers. Both producer groups ranked “herbicide effects on the environment” as a low priority while the public land managers ranked in relatively high. Again, the different levels of familiarity and use of herbicides between the groups may play a large role in these discrepancies. All groups ranked the topics of sprayer calibration and methods of scouting or mapping weeds at the bottom of their priority lists.

Based on the results of the surveys, UNCE educational and research priorities for agricultural producers in Nevada and Churchill County are as follows: 1) Weed control using herbicides, 2) Weed control using alternative methods and 3) weed identification or preventing weed invasion or establishment. Extension priorities for public land managers are: 1) Establishing competitive plants to exclude weeds, 2) weed control using herbicides and 3) preventing weed invasion or establishment.

Additional Resources

Analytical Software. 2008. Statistix 9. User’s Manual. Analytical Software. Tallahassee, FL. 454 p.

Creech, E., L. Singletary, J. Davison, L. Blecker, and B. Schultz. 2010. Nevada’s 2008 Weed Management Extension Program Needs Assessment. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Special Publication 10-03.

Duncan, C.L. and J.K. Clark (eds). 2005. Invasive Plants of Range and Wildlands and their Environmental, Economic and Societal Impacts. Weed Science Society of America. Lawrence, Kansas. 222 p.

Harris, T.R., and A.K Kerna 2009. An Economic Description of the Agricultural Sectors in Churchill County. University Center for Economic Development.

University of Nevada, Reno. Department of Resource Economics Technical Report UCED 2009/10-01. 22 p.

Singletary, L. and M. Smith. 2006. Nevada Agriculture Producer Research and Education Needs: Results of 2006 Statewide Needs Assessment. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Educational Bulletin 06-02. 118 p.

USDA. 2009. 2007 Census of Agriculture. Nevada State and County Data. Volume 1. Geographic Area Series. Part 28. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Washington, DC.

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