Grant County Extension Connection

Episode 7: Dr. Leslie Beck, NMSU Extension Weed Specialist

February 27, 2020 Jessica Swapp Season 1 Episode 7
Grant County Extension Connection
Episode 7: Dr. Leslie Beck, NMSU Extension Weed Specialist
Show Notes Transcript

She grows weeds on purpose! Dr. Leslie Beck visits with me about all things weeds! We discuss her job as the NMSU Extension Weed Specialist, the work she does for the NMSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic, noxious vs. invasive weeds as well as discuss some of the "do it yourself" recipes to control weeds floating around on social media. She also clarifies some misconceptions about Glyphosate. This is not only an educational but a fun episode to listen to.

Song Credit
Hooky with Sloane by Bird Creek Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/... Music provided by FreeMusic109 https://youtube.com/FreeMusic109 

sounds provided by MrSnooze https://youtu.be/1RavoGSfE3U

Jessica :

Welcome to the Extension Connection podcast. The Grant County Cooperative Extension Service is here to help connect you with research based information about economic development, energy and water, farm and ranch, yard and garden, natural resources, health and well being, and our very popular youth development program 4-H. I'm your host, Jessica Swapp, the 4-H and agriculture agent here in Grant County, New Mexico. We are part of New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science and we are here to serve you. So let's get started. On today's podcast, I have Dr. Leslie Beck who is the NMSU weed specialist. Um, we have a long interview over a lot of different topics. Also, this is a phone recorded interview, so the audio is not the best on it. However, I did the best that I could to edit it, to make it sound the best that I could. Um, you'll notice in the very beginning we actually got cut off, so I had to kind of piece it all back together. Um, so just hang in there and hopefully you enjoy the podcast. So with me today on the podcast, we have Dr. Leslie Beck. She is the NMSU Extension Weed Specialist. So welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Thank you for having me. I'm excited.

Jessica :

It's going to be an exciting conversation. All right , so let's talk a little bit about you. Where are you from? What's your background, education, all that kind of stuff.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Oh, awesome. I am from Northern Central Texas, this little town called Stephenville . I was born and raised there. I actually attended college there as well. So I got my bachelor's and my master's at Tarleton State University in Texas, both focusing on a landscape and golf course, turf management. Then I went and got my PhD at Texas Tech University in a similar field in turf turfgrass , so overall turfgrass management. And following that I went and got my postdoc in a extension of turf grass, weed science and management at Purdue University, and that was just prior to me getting my position down here.

Jessica :

So you're basically one of the smarter people in the room?

Speaker 4:

I wouldn't probably wouldn't classify me as that. Definitely I liked school. So that's probably the one thing I had going in my favor, but predominantly have a landscape and a turfgrass background but the benefit with me doing my postdoc at Purdue University is I got a lot of experience in turf grass, weed science, but also w eed extension and outreach education. And that sort of helped me segue into my position here because there is quite a bit of overlap between weed management and landscape and weed management and agronomics, which sort of encompasses my entire, my job duties here a t New Mexico State University. So I am the extension weed specialist for the state of New Mexico. And my expertise covers everything from t urf g rass and landscapes to residential areas, to city scapes, parks and recreation, roadside alleyways, as well as anything that has to do with any cropping s ystem. So agricultural, commodities, any t ype of agricultural production, anything along those lines. So that's really the breadth and the scope of what, u h, of what I t ry to provide educational wise for the citizens of New Mexico.

Jessica :

You go around the state and you, you give presentations correct on kind of weeds and weed management and all that kind of stuff.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

I'll go wherever they'll have me. But the benefit is, is that ...

Jessica :

for anyone listening to our podcast, we got cut off and then I had technical difficulties trying to get it back together again. So I don't even remember where we were. Um, I think we were talking about your job as the weed specialist.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

We were in deed, so I was kind of explaining that I have to have a wide variety of subjects that I cover in my job description. Everything from weeds in the landscape and agronomic systems , everything from home lawn landscapes, city scapes , parks and recreation, a roadside alleyways, and then everything that produces an agricultural commodity . So weeds in chile, weeds in alfalfa, weeds in uh cotton, weeds in pecan orchards. So practically anything agricultural related in this state, I do cover weed management in. So it makes me kind of exciting to travel around the state and get to talk to so many different people. Because of course, regardless of your management system, whether it's your home or landscape or you know it's your, it's your chile field or if you're walking around at a park, everybody has weed issues. Job security.

Jessica :

Its definitely not going away. I also wanted to ask this too. You do some outreach stuff at a ranch days in Catron County, and I have to say it's hilarious to see you there because you actually, you bring weeds that you have potted and you're over there watering them. It just blows my mind because I'm like, there are people rolling over in their , in their graves. Just knowing that you're watering those weeds!

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely may be the only person outside of a weed specialist or a weed educator who actually grows weeds on purpose I'm like grow baby!

Jessica :

Do you happen to have a little weed garden?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

So I did have one that I established a t when I was at Purdue University. It was actually quite massive. I t, it held roughly 150 weeds, all of which that I grew from seed or I transplanted. I essentially built it myself and my plan was to build something like that or similar to that here i n New Mexico State University. Unfortunately the , uh, the university is pretty spread out. Uh, so one of the areas in which I could do that is, is sort of, u h, out of town at one of our plant science facilities, u h, Leyendeker in Las Cruces, that's roughly a 15 minute drive. So we do have w eed specimens out there for s tudents usage, but unfortunately it's hard to get, you know, sort of the general public out there, which is what led me to doing what I call m y, my, my travel w eeds. So I have the potted specimens that I keep in the, u h, in the greenhouse that sort of allow me to travel with them in order to, you know, present displays whenever I have a presentation I'm giving. I'm also working with the herbarium a t New Mexico State University to develop a, u m, a w eed specimen collection that's been pressed. I t's a p resent within t hese shadow box frames. So it makes it a little bit easier for me to transplant them. So I can also g et more weeds into a smaller space that way. So they're actually mounted specimens that are framed so people can actually t ake them up and handle them more so than they would if they were just glued to the, u h, u h, and mounted to the paper. Like they a re a , in a traditional herbarium. S o, u h, constantly working on ways to try to make sure I can travel with t hese specimens because as you know, u m, I c an have the most descriptive pictures in my p resentation, but it's nothing like being able to interact with these things in person. U m, when it comes to building the tools needed for a n accurate weed identification. So still working on it, always tweaking.

Jessica :

So, and when you're planting or transplanting, you just got to know like, how hard is it to keep those suckers alive? I mean, it seems like you don't have to water a weed and they will just grow. So how hard is it actually?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Actually, it's , it's an interesting concept because it's my theory that weeds always have to be , uh, annoying in some way so if I'm trying to grow them in a pot , you know, they, they would grow on the side of the road with no water, with no nutrients, with no help other than, you know, what they're able to opportunistically take up from the soil away from other plants. But if I try to grow them in a pot with wonderful soil, with adequate water and adequate nutrients, they don't want to grow in this pot. They want to grow in the next pot.

Jessica :

Oh gosh!

Dr. Leslie Beck :

So there's, there is actually quite a bit of maintenance that is so involved in it. So when I was a student at Purdue, it was kind of a joke that I would be out there at all hours during the day, spending hour upon hour managing my weed garden. So t here's, there's certainly some input and we do have to take care of them. Of course, a lot of those w eeds a re, are designated as annual. So they have a designated l ife c ycle, a period of growth. And then once they produce their seeds, it's just within their nature t o, to cycle out a die. So I have to replace those quite frequently.

Jessica :

Okay so that's a good segue. All right . So what is a weed ? Let's talk about it.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

So the general consensus is that the definition of a weed , of course, as a plant growing out of place, a plant growing where you don't want it to. And that is absolutely an accurate definition. Although I think from my experience and most likely from yours as well, we've learned that it's a little bit more complicated than that. So the term weed absolutely is a plant growing out of place. But what exactly does that mean? Is it simply a plant that's growing where we don't want it to, or is it negatively affecting our objective for that areas or our goals for that area. So really what designates it as a weed is , is its ability to be invasive in a certain area. And so what designates it as invasive is a plant that's able to establish, grow quickly and spread to the point of disrupting plant communities, ecosystems or whatever goals we might have as human beings for that area. So the term weed is, you know, it's very subjective. So what might be one of the most , uh , uh, difficult to control or troublesome weeds in your landscape, you know, might be the complete opposite for the person who was next to you. I mean, everybody has that one person on their block that doesn't control any, any type of weed in their landscape whatsoever. And of course all the weeds seed from that lawn go to yours. Right? I have to actually, but don't tell anybody. Right? Um, they certainly have benefits as well. And I understand that. So when I'm giving a presentation and I'm talking about a certain plant and its weedy tendencies or characteristics, that is certainly not , uh , excluding the fact that all the plants that we discuss as being weedy or invasive certainly have benefits as well. They can have medicinal purposes. They can be edible. Some of our most invasive and difficult to control weeds like Salt Cedar for instance, were introduced in the United States on purpose. So they have benefits as well. They're great for pollinators. Bees love salt Cedar , and they're also great for erosion control. The problem is is that they escaped cultivation and they're sucking all the water out of the soil. They're making the soil more salty, so they're pushing out native vegetation as well. So it's one of those that tends to lean a lot more onto the weed side of things , uh, more so than what benefits that they do actually provide.

Jessica :

Right, right. Um, and so let's talk about the difference between invasive weeds and noxious weeds.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. So there's a little bit of a misunderstanding cause when, when people are talking to me about a plant that is, is heavily invasive or is, you know , completely taking over their landscape or their area, they'll tend to use the word noxious in that situation. But in reality, all plants that we consider to be weedy are technically invasive. They're invading a certain area, they're causing a negative result . Again, a plant growing out of place, we don't necessarily want them there . Now, a noxious weed in contrast to that is simply a weed that is listed as particularly invasive or having a negative effect on , uh , on an environment or a ecosystem, on either a local, statewide or federal level. S o we do have weeds that are considered to be noxious in the state of New Mexico, and we certainly have weeds that are considered to be invasive. So , um, the clarification is, is that, and this might be getting a little confusing, but all noxious weeds are considered to invasive, if that makes sense. However, not all invasive weeds are considered to be noxious in the state of New Mexico. And we have a , yeah , we have a state noxious weed list in the New Mexico. Arizona has their own state noxious weed list. Colorado has their own and Texas has their own. There's certainly a little bit of overlap between the weeds that might be listed on those particular lists, but the statewide lists are really designated as the, the weeds that people really need to be on the lookout for, to , to really start to try to identify any invasive populations that are starting to grow as quickly as possible so that they can respond to it as quickly as possible. And hopefully we can try to minimize the spread of that weed as a result of [inaudible] Informative about these specific types of plants.

Jessica :

Right, and what if a p erson. Yes, it does. And u m, if a person, you know, t hey're, they have a little garden in their backyard or maybe they're growing some alfalfa or something like that, and they have a weed, u m , t hat they're just not sure what it is. Um , a lot of times, you know, I get a call to come out and take a look at it and I do, and you know, fr om t i me, you know, sometimes it's simple. I'm like, yeah, you got this or this is what it is. But other times it's not and I have no idea what it is and I send it into the plant diagnostic clinic. And you are on the receiving end of that. So, u h , t ell us about the work that you do with the plant diagnostic clinic.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Fantastic. So the plant diagnostic clinic is a , um, is a laboratory that we have established here in New Mexico State University that is specifically designated and meant to receive samples from clients' throughout the state of New Mexico. So outside of just talking about weeds, if anybody has a problem with, u h, one of their vegetables in their g ardens that they might t hink has a disease they can send them in to get tested for disease. If they have a problem identifying an insect that they found either on their plants or in their home, they can send it into the p lant diagnostic clinic and Dr C arol Sutherland w ill take a look at those and anything that has a weedy designation, u h, that comes t o the plant diagnostic clinic, I take a look at and I try to identify. And so what we encourage people to do is certainly send us samples because as generally well known prior to ever trying to manage a p est population or any specific type of pest, the first thing you absolutely have to do is identify it correctly. That way that you know, all the management that you're doing is going to be directed specifically for that pest and that's going to make you more successful as a result. So that's one of the services that we provide here at New Mexico State University. Now, one of the things that we do encourage our clients to do is that when they do submit a sample to the clinic, rather it's through pictures or through , uh , plant specimens, quite frankly, we kind of prefer both just in case is to submit those samples through their local County extension agent and the agents . There's a , a grant in place with a plant diagnostic clinic that will allow the County agents to m ail that specimen to the plant diagnostic clinic on behalf of the client. Therefore, the client doesn't have to worry about paying for, u h, u h, for a mailing for transportation. And more importantly, when I provide an accurate diagnosis or if there's, you know, u h, suggestions for management that are required with that particular sample, I can provide that information through the County a gent as well as the c lients. So m ore people are in the know about what t his particular w eed is, maybe characteristics that I use to identify and what are some suggestions for managing it and hopefully that helps the County agent next time that weed is introduced to them or brought to them to maybe streamline t hat information and try to provide a accurate identification as well. So it's a way for us all to kind of learn from that one, from that one specimen.

Jessica :

And knowing what you're dealing with is pretty much key because weeds from time to time can harbor disease and all kinds of things. Do you have any , uh, any advice on that kind of stuff?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. So , um, the absolute foundation of any weed management strategy has got to start with identification. It's got to start with accurate identification and , and most people are most questions that I get , uh , really fall along the lines of, well, why should I worry about this weed? Well , again, that goes towards the subjectivity of what a weed is and why is it invasive to that particular person. So maybe it is taking away from the aesthetics of a certain area, say somebody's landscape or from a sports turf perspective , uh , football fields, golf courses, things along those lines. They can certainly compete for resources on small farms or large agricultural situations. They could certainly harbor diseases and insects. If anybody has grown i n C hile, i n New Mexico, they're very f amiliar with curly top virus. One of the primary management s uggestions for curly thought virus is to control all of the mustard w eeds in your location. And the reason for that is, is that the leaf hoppers that vector, the virus in their mouth parts are actually more attracted to mustard plants in your landscape than they are i n your tomatoes or your other vegetables. So what initially draws them into your area is the mustard weeds and not necessarily the tomatoes that you have. But of course when they get done with the mustard's, they'll move over to your vegetables and that's how you get curly top virus. They can certainly alter and transform ecosystems most often in a negative way cause otherwise why would we care? Probably the best example of that is, or one of really good example of that is a cheatgrass or Downy brome. It's widespread throughout the state. It is forever changing the physical and chemical composition of the soils in our grass prairies. So therefore our soils can't, can't support our native vegetation anymore. So slowly our native vegetation is starting to get pushed out, the Cheatgrass is taking over. Additionally, cheatgrass loves fire. So used to be in a natural grasslands situation, maybe you would have a fire in there once every couple of decades, something along those lines.

Speaker 4:

Now we have multiple fire events throughout the course of the year because we have plants like cheatgrass that foster the formation of that fire. They can be harmful to people and animals. Um, they can cause skin irritations, allergic responses. One of the reasons that my voice sounds the way it does today is that they are, they're shaking all of the pecan trees. So some of that pollen is starting to , to agitate my allergies. I know a lot of people deal with allergies in the state and at the same time they can be toxic. So one of my favorite examples to talk about with toxicity is a plant called Myrtle spurge is actually on the noxious weed list in New Mexico and it's probably present in a lot of the landscapes throughout New Mexico. It's highly drought tolerant . It's very attractive looking. It's spread naturally. It has yellow flowers.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Um, the reason it's on the nauseous we list is we're , we're trying to get people to, to , to really pay attention, to make sure it doesn't escape cultivation within your landscape. The primary reason for that is , is that when break you a Myrtle spurge plant, you get a very distinct , uh , Milky sap and that sap is actually highly corrosive. And so if that sap gets on your skin, they can cause , uh , uh , uh , skin burning skin lesions . If you accidentally get it on your hands and you rub it in your eyes, it can be very damaging to your vision. And so this highly toxic and corrosive plant is actually very prominent in landscapes because of the way it looks and the fact that it's highly drought tolerant. So it's one of those, again,

Jessica :

I'm going to go home and like now check my lawn for this.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. It's actually in my landscape. I'm renting a house that has myrtle spurge in the backyard . So , um, so I , I've even got it in mine.

Jessica :

Oh my gosh. So let's talk about , um, control methods on weeds. Um, you know, there's, there's several different good ways to control weeds, whether that be organic, chemical, mechanical, cultural, all those types of things. Let's talk about t he good ways in all of those, u h, different, u h, kind of methods. U h, and then we're g oing t o talk about a few that you can find on the internet that are maybe just not the best idea.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Sure. And if it's alright, if I might segue into that section by first or that , uh , uh, uh, that information first by talking really about how we pinpoint our management, direct our management for that specific weed. And that's where identification comes into play. More so than saying, Oh, that's a dandelion. I've identified a dandelion. So what exactly does that mean? Well, there are things about the biology of the dandelion that we can, that we can learn, we can look up as an extension specialist and you as an extension agent can provide that information for them that would help, u h, u h, a manager target whatever practices t hey're utilizing for that specific w eeds. And the idea behind that i s, is that the more you target your management for the opportunistic times for that particular weed, the more successful y ou're going to be, the more sustainable your management is going to be. And the more you reduce your i nputs.

Jessica :

So there's a right time and a wrong time.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. So using that identification and talking about, well, that's a, that's a summer annual, what does that mean? Well that means that there's going to be a period during the year that summer annuals are going to be germinating from seed. They're going to be very young, they're going to be very, they're going to be actively growing. And so it's this timing that you really want to try to pinpoint any management regardless of any weed, whether it's an annual or a perennial, the younger the weed, the easier it is to control regardless of what management practice you utilize. And so one of the things I tell my , uh, uh, my clients is to just remember that the early bird catches the weed in this situation . So it's not necessarily, it's not necessarily that you want to get a, the weeds when they're small. So I really want to take some time to clarify that right quick. So some of the questions that I get as well, the smaller the weeds , the easier it is to control. So I could just go out with a weed eater and hack the weed down to the , to the soil. And then that's when I try to spray it . And then that's when I try to pull it out of the ground. So the distinction is not necessarily when the weed is small but the when the weed is young . Cause if you think about it , what has a young plant not produced yet? Everything is , it produces a copious amount of seed and a young plant hasn't done that yet, so you're not having to worry about it constantly contributing thousands of seed to your soil that you have to worry about season after season, after season, if you're pulling out of the ground, a young taproot is going to be maybe an inch or two underneath the ground. Very easy to remove all of it. However, if you wait until say a mature dandelion might have a root system that extends anywhere from 10 to 20 feet in the soil. S o regardless of whatever tool you can find, you're not g oing t o pull 20 feet worth of a t aproot out of the soil. If you do, I congratulate you.

Jessica :

So hold the phone here did I just hear you say dandelions can have a taproot up to 20 feet. Did I just hear that right?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

You did. Indeed. Some research has indicated that as long as they're allowed to grow and mature , dandelion is a perennial plant. Therefore that root system is going to keep growing, keep growing, keep growing. Some of them can extend up to 20 feet deep. Some of them can extend deeper than that depending on what situation and where they're growing. I have actually had a dandelion , in one of my traveling weed pots that had a dandelion in it. It was a four inch pot, meaning that it was four inches across on the very top and it was four inches deep, so I had a mature dandelion that was growing in that pot that by the time I was removing that, that dandelion , in order to reuse that pot for another plant, I stretched that taproot out to see just how long it was and that ta p r o ot w as longer than my forearm. It was able to grow in a four inch pot. I do actually have a picture of that, so there , the other thing to understand about weeds is that they're very good at what they do. They're highly opportunistic. They can take advantage of situations that are desirable. Plants can't necessarily do, they don't require as many nutrients. They have aggressive, fast-growing root systems that can steal water and nutrients away . They could grow quickly, they could shade out other plants. So the fact that these plants can be highly invasive again is really what designates them as a weed in a certain situation, especially if it's negatively affecting whatever your desirable plants in that area is. Whether it's a small garden, whether it's a landscape, whether it's turf grass, whether it's park, things along those lines.

Jessica :

Right. I want to talk about this too c ause I just thought of this one time at a workshop or something that you gave. You were talking about how weed seeds can survive in the soil sometimes for like hundreds of years.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. I mean it depends on the plant as far as hundreds of years. So one , one very common plant that is often designated as a weed in New Mexico is, is called Common Mullein. It's that very, very wooly fuzzy, feels almost like, you know, donkey's ears or Lamb's ears that are coming out of a rosette in the , uh , in the soil. And then they send that, that seed that , uh, uh, that seed had very high into the air and has those little yellow flowers attached to it. The seed of Common Mullein can very easily survive for a hundred years in the soil. So most of your annual weeds that produce a copious amount of seeds say Purslane, for example, a lot of people are familiar with Purslane. And it's one of those that has , uh, an edibility you can eat it. It has an nutritional value, but it also can be highly invasive in a certain area. And one of the ways that it does that is that it's a summer annual weed and in the course, of one growing season, one spring to summer growth, it can produce anywhere from 250,000 to 1.8 million seed. And so if you think about it, you're contributing thousands and thousands of seed. Every single plant that grows into the soil and Purslane seed can survive for roughly two to three years. Not very long, but if you're contributing two hundred fifty thousand two hundred fifty thousand six hundred thousand over and over and over again, you start building up something in the soil that we called a seed bank. So I like to joke that everywhere you're standing on planet earth, you're standing on weed seed and cockroaches. So pretty, it's pretty accurate. However, there are certain weeds like Field Bindweed for instance, where one plant doesn't produce a whole lot of , uh, what we consider a large amounts of seed. One plant can produce about 150 -200, not that bad. However, every single one of those seed has the ability to survive anywhere from 50 to 70 years in the soil. And that can germinate at any time , whenever conditions are ideal for the germination of that seed. So just because it can survive for 70 years doesn't mean it's going to last for 70 years, but it can. Yeah . So that's the sort of why that general rule of thumb with how do you successfully control weeds, control them when they're young and seed is absolutely one way that those plants can spread.

Jessica :

So , uh , you know, a lot of times I get phone calls, you know, people are wanting to control the lead but they want to do it organically. Let's talk about what that means. Um , and it doesn't mean non-chemical. Let's maybe clear a little bit of that up .

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Sure. So , uh , one of the things I really start with to try to take my clients down when I'm, or my clientele or anybody in the audience of one of my presentations is really talking about what a herbicide is. So when you're talking about herbicide, it's really important to understand that a herbicide is anything that you are adding to or putting onto a plant that is going to suppress, injure or kill it, that can be synthetic or organic. So there's a little bit of a stigma attached to a word like herbicides and chemicals and things along those lines. But the important thing to understand is both our synthetic and our organic options for weed control are all considered to be herbicides. And that's a really important concept for , for, for people to think about when they're utilizing these projects or these products because anything that you are putting out into the environment and you're , you're , you're definitely doing that. When you're trying to control a plant in, in, in, in its place with one of these products, we have to take into consideration what that product might be doing within the environment, within the soil. So , um, it is really important that regardless of what you're using, whether it's a traditional synthetic herbicide or whether it's considered to be an organic herbicides , I'll talk about the difference here in a moment is that it has a label. So the best way to make sure that we are putting out the correct amount for a successful controlling of that particular target weed as well as in a manner that's going to be as sustainable as possible but also impacts the surrounding environments in a minimal way is to absolutely pay attention to the information and the directions in that label, the label is actually law. That's not a euphemism. The label is, is a contract between you and the manufacturer. Again, whether it's aesthetic or organic, that when you make an application with that product, you are going to be making it in accordance with those directions. Then quite frankly, that's just the safest way to utilize these products. So the difference in synthetic and organic products is, is it's a little bit , uh , no , not essentially well understood that, you know, synthetic are are typically created in a sense. Our traditional herbicides, probably the one that comes to everybody's mind would be glyphosate. There's a lot of our synthetic herbicides out there. What designates a product as organic usually in an organic farming or production system is whether or not it is OMRI certified and OMRI is , uh , is one of those , uh , facilities that they, they're, they're not a regulating agency at all. So they don't really have the ability to , uh , uh, to regulate whether or not this product is going to be available or not. What they do is they officially certified certain products as being capable of being used in an organic situation. So usually the products that are going to be OMRI certified as organic herbicides are going to be fast acting and pretty much strictly contact herbicides . And what that means is that they only affect the part of the plant that it comes into contact with. So if you think about some of the traditional organic options for herbicides that we use, predominantly they're going to include acids and oils. So citric acid , probably the most popular would be acidic acid, which is the chemical name for vinegar. And essentially what acids in oils do is that as they come into contact with a plant, they cause some form of a disruption in a sense. So they disrupt the cell wall. The cell wall can't grow as a, as a result of that. So it essentially sort of disrupts and damages the , the upper surface of the leaf. So the idea of a herbicide [inaudible] as much of the plant as possible. So if you think about it, if I burned my hand , some acid, it's not going to travel up and down. My other arm and burn my other hand, I need to contact both hands in order to do that. So physically we end up adding or applying more of or a higher rate of these products because we had to contact more of it. So some of them are synthetic options for herbicides or contacts as well as another options with option within our synthetic herbicides called systemic. And what that means is, is that I can make a tiny application of a small rate of a systemic herbicide on my hand and that means that it might likely travel up my arm, down my other arm and in your my other hand, it has the ability to move within the plant and disrupt some function within the plant that is essential for it to survive. So example of that would be something like 2, 4-D, which is a very common , uh , herbicide active ingredient that's available at your local garden center. And what it does is it mimics growth hormones. And so when you make an application of 2, 4-D it's important that it moves within the plant to the place, to the portion of the plant that is producing growth hormones. And what it does is the same takes that growth hormone thinking that it actually is a hormone, like[inaudible] and that's where you get that injury that's very typical with 2, 4-D that we call [inaudible] that bending and that twisting and the cupping of the outer edge of the leaves cause you think about how it's working. Some cells are growing normally because they didn't have growth hormones , and some cells are not because they've accidentally taken in 2, 4-D instead. So that's where you get that i njury that you see. S o w ith s ystemic h erbicides, you actually e nd up most likely making a smaller rate application because they can injure more of the plant. I'm not saying one i s, is better than the other, it's just that these are important things to understand when, u h, when choosing the right product for, u h, for your specific purpose, u h, herbicide needs.

Jessica :

Right. So do these organic herbicides, do they, do they work?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

That's actually a really good question. They do work. So one of the things I really try to point out with my , uh, with my clients and anybody who's sitting in on one of my presentations is to, to really think of how we apply organic herbicides in conjunction with how we apply our, our traditional systemic or our synthetic herbicides. and what I mean by that is, you know, we've , we've sort of got to get out of this mentality that just because it is considered to be organic, that it's automatically going to be safe. You can certainly cause some negative results in the environment. You can certainly cause injury to yourself depending on what it is that you're using, even though you're using an organic herbicide . So that's why it's important to make sure that what you're using has a label with explicit directions on how to make that application in a successful way. And so , uh, one of the reasons that I point that out is there are certainly organic options available on the market. The ones that I would say are going to be more successful are going to the ones that will give you explicit instructions about how to appropriately use that herbicide, that organic herbicides , and one of the things that I guarantee the label will tell you is once again, make sure you make your application when the plant is young. Because if you think about it, if you're using an acid and the plant that you're targeting is a pigweed plant that's as tall as me, I'm roughly five foot nine. You know, the maturity , the plans is probably way too mature at that point in order to just be burned away at the surface and not to where that product is going to kill that plant. However, if it's just germinated and it's less than about four inches tall, then of course your organic option for herbicide would have a better chance at injuring the majority of that plant when it's actively growing prior to when it's sort of shut down and in survival mode if it makes sense. But that is absolutely something that I would recommend for your traditional synthetic herbicides as well. Get them when they're young. They all have language within their labels stating how mature the plant needs to be in order to , uh, to successfully control that plant with that one herbicide application. Any application outside of that, you know, there isn't an expectation that that plant is known that that application is going to be successful, that that plant is going to die. So what do you end up doing? You're not making application after application after application and that's when we start getting into trouble with overuse with too much of the active ingredient out into the , uh , the ecosystem, which again, this , this absolutely qual , uh , qualifies for organic herbicides as well. So just because they're organic, we can't, we can't really have that expectation that we can just go out and make these applications Willy nilly as much of them as we want because we have to be good stewards of what we're putting into the environment regardless of what it is that we're using. And that's why the importance of the label is, is, is essential. The additional thing is that if you're making applications of a product that is not labeled for that use , you know, technically that is, that is against the law in a sense. And that is to make sure that, you know, people just aren't going out and Willy nilly applying , um , things that they have seen on social media as to be a good , uh, type of weed management option. Because without that label and without direction f or a safe application, it's really hard to understand what kind of negative results that might be causing even w hen t hey're, u h, the soil underneath the plant where you're making that application. A really good example of that. So one of the things that we stress with pest management, regardless if it is a plant or a weed, an insect or disease, is that social media. U m, a lot of these through social media, o ne o f these do it yourself or DIY mixtures get's spread around, has been particularly successful for certain p lant. So in just talking about weeds, one of the things to understand is that again, probably the most popular organic method of control is going to be vinegar (acetic acid). So a lot of that is going to u h, so one of the things I ask the people who a re attending my presentations is: Well, we have perfectly good acetic acid underneath our sink at home. Do we need to go out to our local garden center and pay $20 for a gallon of this type of acetic acid? You know, should we go out and purchase that product? And the answer is actually yes, because most likely that product that you're purchasing is going to have a label with specific directions for use as a herbicide. The vinegar that you use in your house the 5% distilled or um , o r Apple cider vinegar or t hings along those lines are not labeled or intended for use as a weed killer. And the important thing to understand is that when you have that household vinegar, what's the typical percentage? It's going to be five. And it's, it 's s ort of my, my joke and trying to get people to , to laugh and interact that, you know, 5% distilled vinegar is a s alad dressing! You know , if it doesn't, if it doesn't wilt in your bowl, it's not going to wilt your backyard. So typically 5% of a vinegar, unless the plant is very, very small, it's not going to be successful at completely injuring a plant , uh , as much as it would need to since it's a contact herbicide. So when we see these herbicide based acetic acid or vinegar products, usually that percentage is going to be a little higher. And when you start upping the percentage in order to be more effective against various types of weeds that might be applied, that's when you start increasing the likelihood of possible injury and possible negative results of the environment. If we're not careful with these applications, just like with our synthetic herbicides as well. So , uh , one example of that, of course I can't mention the name of a specific product but they are products at your local garden centers that have up to 20% concentrated acetic acid or vinegar and they're absolutely still organic certified and that's perfectly fine and I actually like a lot of these products because if you look on the bottle, they have very, very detailed instructions for safe and sustainable applications and successful applications on certain weeds. And one of the things I point out to people who are , uh , uh, at my presentation is if you actually look at these products, even though it's an organic product , um, every herbicide organic or synthetic has what we call a signal word. So , uh , delegating its ability to cause injury or to be toxic in a sense. And those signal words are going to range from caution to warning to danger, to danger skull and crossbones, danger skull and crossbones obviously means that you're probably dealing with some pretty nasty stuff. So the reason that I segued into that explanation is that if you look at the label on these 20% acetic acid products, even though they are organic, they carry a signal, word of danger attached to them. And that doesn't mean that it's a bad product. It just means that we need to take careful consideration. Because you're dealing with a higher concentrated acid. You don't want to get that on your skin. You can burn yourself. You don't want to get that in your eyes. They can be highly corrosive. If you're making an application and you're spraying it, you want to make sure that you don't breathe in the particulates cause that could be agitating to your, into your esophagus, into your lungs. Um, things along those lines. So again, you know, you're using these products as a herbicide and therefore they have to be taken into the same consideration as our previous synthetic options that, you know, so that we can make sure that we're being good stewards of what we're applying. Now, one of the other mixtures , if I could talk about it right quick , um , that I get asked about quite frequently, that's very , very prominent on Facebook. In fact, people send it to me all the time is the mixture of household vinegar 5% acetic acid vinegar, a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap. And I think it's uh , uh, one or two cups of Epsom salt. That's a pretty high or a gallon of vinegar. That's what it is and two cups of Epsom salt . That's a pretty high concentration of a gallon of vinegar household 5% distilled vinegar and two cups of Epsom salt. That's a pretty high concentration of Epsom salt. You got to purchase a lot of vinegar. But um, this is a do it yourself method. This mixture, I can guarantee you will not be available with a , uh , EPA sanctions label. And there's a reason for that. And so we just talked about how effective 5% household vinegar is on weeds, not very. Right, right. So what is it that's causing the damage on the, on the weeds that you see in the pictures, in all of the formulations that are sent throughout Facebook. It's the Epsom Salt. And so the age old adage, I guarantee you a soil specialist will tell you the exact same thing. Don't put salt in your soil, especially in our soil, some of those mixtures do contain table salt so that, that joke is actually applicable in certain situations. Now I know that Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate its not a true salt, salt. But again, this is where I was talking earlier about, you know, unless you're, you're, you're, you're well read and um , a nd have an understanding of what it is that our soils are capable of. We have very high pH, highly calcific soils, meaning they have a high salt content already. And so when you apply magnesium into our soils, it doesn't move at all. It's so immobile, it can't be taken up by the plants. So what happens when you make application after application, after application, you get a buildup of magnesium in your soils. So eventually with enough applications you'll start creating soil situations that no plant can survive in with the exception of weeds.

Speaker 4:

So yeah, so I often joke that sometimes the best of intentions can have negative results if it's not well understood, exactly what that mixture, what those elements can do to the environment, specifically the soils in this case. So I would highly recommend against using mixture. If anything for the reason that it is a DIY mixture it has no label for safe, for safe applications. So there's no way to know if you're causing irreparable damage to the soil when you're making an application or not. It's not a sanctioned product for use as a herbicide, if that makes sense.

Jessica :

Yes, very much so. One thing I've learned from you is about the toxicity level of table salt compared to glyphosate is actually table salt is worse for you than glyphosate. Is that true?

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. So one of, one of the characteristics of glyphosate and glyphosate, for those of you who don't know is the active ingredient in a traditional products like Roundup. So the reason that I will use glyphosate from here on out is glyphosate is the actual active ingredient. Roundup is a certain trade name produced by a certain company that has the active ingredient in it. So one of the comparisons that I use is it's essentially the same as drinking Coke or Pepsi, you know, two separate companies make them. So essentially you have a lot of similarities in that formula, but they look very different and people would swear they taste different. I don't drink soda so I can't relate to that.

Jessica :

They definitely taste different! I'm just putting that out there.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

I completely understand. I will take, I will take your word for it. But um, so when you look at the actual toxicity and this information is actually on every label of every product that is designated as a herbicide. Now the thing to understand is that this information isn't going to be available on the primary label. That's that little booklet that you pull apart or that you should read prior to making, every single application, again, organic or synthetic, there's a second label that is available online at all times. It has to be according to the law called the material safety data sheet. Or now it's just called the safety data sheet. So MSDA or SDS, they're exactly the same thing. And the SDS is the information that you need in case there is an accidental exposure. That's the information that medical personnel would need in order to know how to treat you , uh , information on how long that product lasts within the environment. How likely is it to move or leach through the soil after you make an application. And the other thing is that is contained in that particular label is a toxicity factors to different uh, subjects. So usually that's going to be aquatic toxicity and mammal toxicity, mammalian toxicity. So the interesting thing is when you, when you look at these levels, they are going to be presented in something called the LD 50. And what that is, is that during the , during the testing product that is during the testing phase, that is the amount of that product that was a lethal dose to 50% of the test population. So one of the ways I tell my my , uh, attendees to , to think about that is that if you have a product that has a really, really low number, LD 50, is that more toxic or less toxic, then a product that has a very high number, LD 50, it would be more toxic. Most people get that backwards in their head .

Jessica :

I didn't want to get it wrong on my podcast.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

I was thinking about that. I was like, Hey , I can answer. It's very confusing when you think about it, but when you think about what an LD 50 actually is, the lower the number, the more toxic that product actually is. And so when you look up the safety data sheet of the active ingredient, glyphosate, it actually has a very, very low toxicity factor to either aquatic organisms or mammilion organisms. So, you know, rabbits, things along those lines. Uh, human beings, the toxicity factor is actually very low. And when you compare to some of these traditional synthetic herbicide options and even organic herbicide options that we've been using with traditional products that we use everyday in the home, like the one that you suggested table salt, when you look at the LD 50 for both table salt is actually twice as toxic as glyphosate is. When you look at the LD 50 of household, 5% vinegar in comparison to glyphosate vinegar is actually more toxic. Now, that's not saying that vinegar is poisonous or anything like that. It has a slightly lower LD 50, which makes sense to me because it's simply a stronger acid. That's all it is. Yes , you certainly wouldn't drink a complete gallon of , uh , acetic acid or vinegar because that's bad for you. So everything, everything in moderation. Absolutely. And so that's why these products have labels to make sure that we're not using them in a way that is going to cause , um, unnecessary exposure. People might mistake it for something else. So even though , uh , some of our organic options contain the same active ingredient as acetic acid, if it's contained in a percentage of 20%, like we were talking about previously, you certainly won't want to use that to make a salad dressing with that goes against the label that's not appropriate and that could be dangerous for the , uh, for the consumer. And so all of these numbers are simply meant to give people an indication of of what toxicity levels that might hold. Now probably one of the easier ways to get this information is to look at those signal words that I was talking about. Caution, warning, danger, danger skull and cross bones and glyphosate absolutely is in that lower caution category. Now that doesn't mean that just because it's considered to have low toxicity, it doesn't last very long in the environment. It doesn't have any r esidual soil that we can just go o ut a nd make applications Willy nilly. We always have to stay in accordance with those l abel directions a nd make those applications in a responsible way regardless of what we're using.

Jessica :

Yeah, I agree. The basis of all of it is read the label [inaudible].

Dr. Leslie Beck :

My joke is if I could tattoo it on my forehead, I would, my mother probably wouldn't be very, very happy with me, but it might, you know, really emphasize the importance of, of that statement. And you know, the , the truth of the matter is when in doubt, consult the label, the label has all the information you need in order to make a safe and sustainable application .

Jessica :

And there's not a label on my vinegar under the sink in my kitchen that's going to tell me how to spray it on my weeds.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

There is not, you should not use that product on your weeds. Go out and purchase an organic product that has a label that has that, those safe directions on how to make a safe application.

Jessica :

Right? So I'm sure you see this stuff on TV. This is going to be kind of a , one of the last few questions that I have for you, but , um, you know, you see all these , these ads on TV about how, you know, if you've gotten cancer or something from, you know , glyphosate, you know, blah blah, blah, blah, blah. I mean, is it really real? Is this really happening?

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Well, in answer to that question and I kind of have to be careful on how I navigate here. Um, I'm not a physician. I've not been actively , um, involved in research involving toxicity levels and , and human beings exposures, the development of cancers. However, what I can do is, is talk about what the actual research, the scientific based research in this instance has provided for us in regards to that. Now, I do want to clarify on not making a statement and sending that you absolutely should go out and buy glyphosate or Roundup and use the type of thing. I would never say that. Of course there's a lot of considerations that we have to take and quite frankly, if you've ever received any of my emails. There has never been a statement of just go buy this product and spray it, you'll be fine It's always long. This is a timing that you want to make the application for this particular weed. Here's a couple of other options that might be successful that you can use prior to maybe resorting to a herbicide if that's going to work on that particular weed. So it's, it's all involved in that but , but we , we , we've , we've talked about that previously. So where, where the scientific community is on this and where the science is, the scientific research has indicated that this stance is that there really is no link between the exposure to glyphosate and the developments of any kind of cancers. Um, so there have been a couple of , uh , uh, journal articles that have been released in the past more specifically that world health organization, the one that is referenced in those commercials. But that, that particular article is, I think it was released in 2015 there have been multiple studies since then that just don't hold up those results and therefore the results don't hold up in multiple different situations.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

It's not a replicated study and therefore it can't necessarily be considered scientific, if that makes sense. So the reason , the reason that I can say that about where the science is right now is that there have been independent regulatory agencies such as the environmental protection agency, the Canadian test management, regulatory agency, the European food safety authority, all of which have done independent studies since that paper has been published, looking at similar themes, actually covering a larger , uh, representations of the actual population. So , uh , and I think it was in 2018 there was an agricultural health study that was supported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute that found no association between glyphosate based on herbicides, based on its exposure in the development of cancers. And that conclusion was drawn by a study that followed the health of more than, I believe it was 50,000 licensed pesticide applicators over a period of 20 years. And so there had been multiple studies by independent regulatory agencies that obviously are , are independent of each other that have done probably more thorough studies in that situation they had not found that link . Now, that being said, you know, there's, there's, there's , there's no way I can say that that's not going to, that might not be something that is measurable or determined in future studies. I can't say that the science has determined that as of yet. In fact, in a , and believe it was April of 2019 the environmental protection agency, it's officially released their statement in saying that they would no longer approve product labels claiming that glyphosate is known or a probable cause of cancer. Um, and so that's sort of their stance and saying the research doesn't support this. Therefore we cannot approve of these labels that is providing what we consider with the scientific information the way it is right now to be false information. Now again, I'm not taking a stance on this. I'm just saying that's what the scientific community is saying. So that being said, I will segue into what I've been saying all along in that regardless of the product that you're using, the best way to make sure that we are minimizing our exposure, we're reducing the inputs into the environment that we are making sure that these applications are, safe and sustainable as possible, is to continue making applications in accordance with the label, regardless of if its glyphosate, regardless of it's another synthetic herbicide or regardless if it's organic that's the only way we're going to move forward to try to make sure that , uh, we are as safe as we possibly can be with the use of these products.

Jessica :

Yes, yes. And , um , I, you know, I think my takeaways from, from our conversation today is this , um, you know, you want to do organic or you know, conventional or, you know, whatever you want to do. Um , you do, you , um, but you know, maybe just, maybe just , uh , do it the right way though, making sure that we're not doing , um, you know, the DIY type mixtures. Um, let's leave the chemistry to the chemists, if you will. And , uh, let them make those organic mixtures to control these weeds and then , uh , follow the label and make sure we know what we're even trying to get rid of to begin with.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. Absolutely. So , I mean , I would never, I would never tell somebody to, you know, just do it this way or just do it this way. What I try to do as an extension specialist, my extension education is merely to provide multiple recommendations for what can be done for this specific weed. And then the person that I am speaking with or the presentation that I'm giving, hopefully the attendees of that presentation can take this information and make a decision based on what's best for them, what their specific goals for that management or if they're just strictly organic producers, that's great. But you know, regardless of what we're using, we have to make sure that we're using them in the appropriate way. So I'm certainly not a negative on organic options at all actually. I'm , I'm glad that there are certain options, other options for people to utilize, especially when they're nervous about using synthetic herbicides. And I absolutely understand that. What I'm trying to get across is that regardless of what we're using, we have to make sure we use it in the correct way. Otherwise we're just, you know, we're not having any effect . We're having failed applications and so you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again and you're not getting the result that you are necessarily aiming for. Obviously that's going to be a waste of your time, a waste of your energy and there's going to be of that product that's being put into the environment that didn't belong there in the first place when there were certainly things that we needed to take into consideration, like the biology of the weeds. When is it germinating from seed if it does, so when does it actively growing? If it's a perennial weeds, there are certain timings that we can, that we can really target our , our management , uh , regardless of what we're using. If we're using herbicides organic or synthetic or if we're pulling them out of the ground or if we're tilling them up with a , a machine or if we're using biological control if that if they're available, there are certain timings that they're going to be a lot more effective on that weed as opposed to other timings. And that's really what I try to push with my, with my education is really trying to understand how we can target and pinpoint our management to be more successful regardless of what people decide. Is there, is there a preferred way to try to manage these weeds? Absolutely.

Jessica :

Sure. Well, I think that kind of wraps up, I mean, we can talk, I mean, gosh, we could talk about all of this for a very long time and you're , you're incredibly knowledgeable and passionate and I mean, if you're listening into this and you haven't figured out that , um, you know, Dr. Leslie Beck , uh , knows her stuff. Uh , she knows her stuff. I'm telling you. Um, I think , uh, yeah, so I appreciate you being on the podcast and calling in.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

I appreciate you having me. I had a lot of fun.

Jessica :

Yeah. And I'm , I'm , I'm, I'm so excited about what you had to say that I'm, I'm thinking that I'm probably gonna try to hang up the phone and then try to schedule you to come in and be present and give a presentation on this maybe.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Okay. , I'd be more than happy to. I , I, the other thing I do want to say , uh, you know, before we, before we move out is that, you know , we as in weed management, weed science is, you know, it's a very specific , uh, you know , uh , scientific study. Of course I'm a , I'm a scientist in it, so I do have that knowledge in order to provide. So I guess the one thing I want to leave people with is if you don't know or if you have questions, utilize extension as a resource. That's what we're here for. So every county has a designated County extension agent and there's , the agent is not particularly certain if it's a weed related question or ID. If they're not sure, they can certainly call me, email me, send that sample to me. And we will work together in order to make sure that you have the information that you need in order to proceed forward. I think in a more successful way. So my call to , to all of the listeners out there is that if you have questions utilize extension as a resource, that's absolutely what we're here for. I'm more than happy to help in any way that I can. So if you have a question, let us know.

Jessica :

Yes, yes. And my contact information is actually at the end of this podcast. So , um, you can get ahold of me and we can , uh, we can work together, work with the work with you and, and make sure we're doing the right things.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Absolutely. I would always recommend contacting your local agent probably first, just because they're probably more aware of what's going on on a local basis and they can probably get you an information in a little bit more , uh, quick or fast , faster manner than a statewide specialists like myself could just because we cover so much information, but we absolutely, I, I love working with the uh, with County agents like yourself Jessica in the state and everybody's so nice. We're all so helpful and collaborative with each other that, you know, it's all been a treat for me to get, to work with the County agent to try to get somebody the information they need on how to proceed with their weed management and I'm more than happy to help out in any way that I can.

Jessica :

Well, thank you so much.

Dr. Leslie Beck :

Thank you. I really had a lot of fun. Thank you so much for having me.

Jessica :

What a great conversation with Dr Leslie Beck on the podcast today. If you're looking for any more information from her or from me, feel free to reach out with the information that's at the end of this podcast. Thanks for listening. Thanks everyone for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, don't forget to hit the subscribe button on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google play, or whatever app you're using to listen to this podcast. Want more information? You can visit us at our website, grantextension.nmsu.edu follow us on Facebook at NMSU, Grant County, CES, Snapchat at Grant County NM 4-H, shoot us an email at [email protected] or give us a call, (575) 388-1559. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

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Speaker 5:

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