Called alternately the "plant from hell" and "Sodom's apples" in Florida, the thorny weed can quickly take over pastures, first displacing the grass, then the cattle, said Dr. Mary Ketchersid, Texas Cooperative Extension pesticide safety specialist.
Ketchersid said she doesn't want to sound like an alarmist, but the weed has caused economic disaster for agricultural producers in other states.
"I think we need to be scared. People need to be watching for it," she said.
Dr. Larry Redmon, Extension forage specialist based in East Texas, agrees.
"I think people need to be very concerned because it has the potential to cover a lot of acres in East Texas in a short period of time," he said.
A rapid response team comprised of Extension range management, weed and forage specialists, U.S. Department of Agriculture pest survey personnel and a Texas Department of Agriculture entomologist, visited the Jasper farm soon after being alerted by Ricky Thompson, Extension agent for Jasper County.
The hope is, Ketchersid said, to contain the weed to the original site. But she warns that since it's a perennial, eradicating it isn't likely to be easy.
"We've been trying to eradicate mesquite since before the 1960s, and it's still the subject of brush control programs," she said.
Before they spray a suspect infestation, producers should first send a sample to Ketchersid for positive identification. Take a generous sample and seal it up in a gallon plastic storage bag. Be sure to include leaves, stems and fruit. Don't add any water. Using a sturdy cardboard box, mail the bag to Mary Ketchersid, 115 Agronomy Field Lab, 2488-TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-2488.
Alternately, producers may also call Ketchersid at 979-845-6531, or e-mail digital pho
Contact: Robert Burns
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications