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Noxious weed invades Todd County

Palmer amaranth plants sway in the breeze near Holdrege, Neb., on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

A noxious weed — Palmer amaranth — has invaded Todd County.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture confirmed the infestation in a conservation planting this week. The department is investigating where the seed came from.

While some varieties of amaranth are harvested as grain, Palmer amaranth is one of the nine varieties considered noxious and invasive. It grows rapidly, at times topping 8 feet. One female plant typically produces 100,000 to 500,000 seeds.

Resistant to multiple herbicides, the weed can harm crop yields and is expensive to control.

However, a state agriculture official sounded optimistic about the chance to eradicate it.

"The Todd County planting was seeded in late June; and with our cold overnight temperatures earlier this week, it's unlikely there is any viable seed on the plants," said Geir Friisoe, the state's director of plant protection, in a news release. "Also, thanks to local officials who were on the lookout for Palmer and notified us immediately, we were able to quickly find and identify the Palmer, and make a plan for eradication."

Palmer amaranth was first confirmed in Minnesota in 2016 in Lyon and Yellow Medicine counties. The state took action to control its spread there.

Because of the threat it poses to Minnesota crops, Palmer amaranth may not be sold in the state and all parts of the plant must be destroyed. Palmer amaranth is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It has been found in 28 other states, including Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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