County takes steps to fight roadside danger

Published 4:32pm Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grass on roadsides in Dallas County may grow shorter next year if the county is successful in implementing an herbicide-spraying program.

County engineer Coosa Jones said his office is looking to hire a vegetation management agency and has already purchased a spraying truck to combat Johnson Grass.

“The main thing is that this will enable us to possibly save some money, but the primary reason is making the roadways safer for citizens,” Jones said. “The Johnson Grass grows so fast, that you cut it and a few weeks later it’s back to the height it was.”

Jones said the county purchased the herbicide-spraying truck for approximately $14,000 as surplus from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The county hasn’t officially singed a contract with Roadside Inc., a vegetation management company, but Jones said the cost of spraying herbicide would likely be less than mowing the entire county three to four times per year.

“The company is just going to be assisting us in the cab, checking the type of vegetation and advising us of the specific herbicides we need to use,” he said. “We have never done this before so we need assistance to show us how to do it properly.”

Johnson Grass, often considered a weed, is named after Alabama plantation owner William Johnson, who grew it on his farm, according to a report by Texas A&M’s Soil and Crop Science Department.

The report attributed the grass’ spread to intentional planting to revive worn-out fields after the civil war and natural methods, such as flooding.

But since it was initially planted, the grass has taken over southern roadsides and often causes trouble for motorists. Jones said animals could hide in the grass and run in front of motorists. Johnson Grass was even the target of a federal appropriation for weed control in 1900.

The grass was unusually problematic due to the above average amount of summer rainfall, Jones said. Selma averages four to five inches of rain in summer months, according to the National Weather Service, but in July alone some areas of the county saw totals of 10 inches.

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