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Locust Trees by Mario Villarino

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This week I visited the property of a recent producer of Hopkins County. The land, in desperate need of care was invaded with locust trees. The trees in the area were of different sizes, proof that those trees where there for several decades. Honey locust (Gleditisia triacanthosL.) is a native tree species also known as honey-shucks locust, sweet-locust, three-thorned acacia, sweet-bean or thorny locust. It has a natural range that extends from central Pennsylvania to South Dakota to southeastern Texas to Alabama. This range was probably expanded by Native Americans, who used the wood, pods and seeds for several purposes, and later by wildlife and ornamental plantings. It is best adapted to moist, bottomland soils, but can survive on a wide variety of sites.

Honey locust is often one of the first trees to occupy an area that was once woods, was cleared and is reverting back to woods. It is a moderately fast growing tree that has proven to be hardy and tolerant of drought conditions and saline soils. Locust trees have been here for centuries. For some, locust trees were a way of survival during drought. The locust tree also provided support for natives and their cattle during those years when nothing was there.

For the current landowner, the locust trees were a weed, affecting access to his property, risking his equipment and vehicle because the size of its thorns.  According to the literature, locust trees can be controlled by prescribed burning, treated with chemicals or mechanically removed.  Either way, the effective control method to remove the young locust trees will require a systematic approach used constantly and gradually. Because the landowner of the property was not living in the place, an effective control method cannot be implemented. After several minutes of discussion, the landowner came to the conclusion that the land needed someone taking constant care of it, for the his benefit and the benefit of the land.

Remember the upcoming Spring field day in cooperation with NRCS-Hopkins. During this field day, we will be talking about this specific topic with Andy Wright, and he will have a real time demonstration on the mechanical removal of locust trees. The Spring Field Day will be April 27th starting at 8:30 AM at the Hopkins County Extension Office and we will be visiting NRCS cooperator Tracy Knight and his hay operation in Brashear. I will be offering 2 CEU for private applicators. Several specialist, producers and support personnel will be available to answer your questions. Transportation will be required. The Spring Field Day is free.

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Author: Staff Reporter

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