Rethink use of chemicals for knotweed

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By Lyndon Virkler

I was unable to attend the  meetings in Waitsfield on the Japanese knotweed issue, but have been following the story in The Valley Reporter and wanted to reinforce what others have been saying based on some information gained at the NOFA Mass Summer Conference this past weekend.

First, the NOFA keynote address by Dr. Don Huber, a former government scientist, reinforced the concerns of Ben Falk and others about the use of  glyphosate. In  addition to being a known carcinogen, it disrupts beneficial bacteria in the soil and in the human digestive system. Studies have linked it to a host of human health concerns ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes and obesity. Clearly, we don’t want to be introducing glyphosate into the Mad River watershed.

Second, a workshop by Mike Bald  on controlling Japanese knotweed reiterated the  challenges and the strategies for success in dealing with knotweed and other invasives.  (I believe Mike also spoke at at least one of the Waitsfield  meetings). A daunting statistic: it usually requires 12 cuttings the first year to begin to get it under control and almost as many the second year, followed by less frequent cuttings in following years. The good news is control is possible, the sobering news is it requires years of persistence.  I encourage everyone to read the Seven Days article on Mike’s work  at

Third, as Mike Bald and some of the letters to The Valley Reporter noted, there are potential uses for Japanese knotweed ranging from medicinal to food  uses. Perhaps some of our many creative Valley entrepreneurs can figure a way to capitalize  knotweed removal and in so doing, subsidize the cost.   Perhaps also, some of our many great volunteer organizations can help coordinate the many volunteers needed to help control knotweed. I’d be willing to join the effort.

I was heartened to hear that Waitsfield officials  are reconsidering the use of chemicals on this project.

I remember years ago when many of my Waitsfield neighbors banded together and were able to convince Green Mountain power to avoid using herbicides to clear power line spaces in our area.

I hope we can have a similar result here.

Virkler lives in Waitsfield.

Tagged under knotweed