Agencies ask farmers to check for broomrape

In the spring of 2000, Branched broomrape, a parasitic weed and a major threat to crops of the United States, was found in east central Texas in the following counties: Limestone and Freestone (records but apparently not established), Washington and San Jacinto (established but limited populations), Robertson, Leon, Madison, Walker, Grimes, and Brazos (well established throughout county).

Branched broomrape was found in 10 central Texas counties in 2000 and has been found in 22 counties in 2001 including Anderson, Angelina, Brazos, Burleson, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Grimes, Harris, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Limestone, Madison, Milam, Montgomery, Navarro, Robertson, San Jacinto, Walker, Waller, and Washington counties.

At this time surveys were only conducted along state roads in areas where wildflowers had been planted. These plant surveys were only conducted along roadside rights of way, but there are reports of infestations on winter legumes in pastures. Broomrape plants are not found in areas limited to grassy vegetation because this parasitic plant requires a broadleaf host to survive.

USDA, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and Texas Cooperative Extension request that you survey your property for branched broomrape and report any observations of this plant. The pest, a root parasite, lacks chlorophyll and takes all its nourishment from the host plant. It is spread by tiny (less than 0.5 mm) seeds that are easily carried by farm and construction equipment, water, wind, or animal droppings.

Germination takes place in December through February. Each branched bBroomrape seed puts out a root-like growth that attaches to the roots of nearby hosts. Once attached to a host, the branched broomrape robs its host of water and nutrients.

The above-ground stems first start to appear in February with the majority showing up in March and April. The first flowers appear just three days after the plant breaks ground, and seed pods mature in just 14 days. Each plant may produce 50,000 or more seeds. The seeds-are long-lived, some surviving in the soil for more than 10 years.

Only a portion of the viable branched broomrape seed in the soil will germinate each year.

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