As soon as I learned that the Western Society of Weed Science‘s annual meeting was going to be held in Boise in 2023, I began making plans to attend. I had attended the annual meeting in 2018 when it was held in Garden Grove, California and had been thinking about it ever since. It’s not every year that a meeting like this comes to your hometown, so it was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t miss. The meeting was combined with the Western Aquatic Plant Managment Society‘s annual meeting, so consider that a bonus.
The first meeting of the week was the general session where introductions are made and various updates are given. There were two keynote addresses as well. One highlight for me was learning about Women of Aquatics, which is a support group for women that work in aquatic sciences. Because this and so many other scientific fields tend to be male dominated, it’s good to see organizations offering support and creating community to help address some of the challenges women face when working in fields where they are underrepresented. Another highlight was Matt Germino‘s talk about fire ecology in the sagebrush steppe. Due to decades of overgrazing and the introduction of a suite of invasive annual grasses (among other factors), fire has become far more common in our region than it once was. The sagebrush steppe is not adapted to frequent fire, which is part of what makes restoration work so difficult. In 2015, a megafire (referred to as the Soda Megafire) occurred in the Owyhee Mountains, burning around 279,000 acres of sagebrush steppe. Restoration efforts after the fire have been well researched, and such efforts continue to this day. Research opportunities like this are helping us improve the way we address this issue in the West, and I hope to spend future posts elaborating further on this topic.
After the general ssession, I attended a few of the talks that were happening in the various breakout sessions. One was about climate change trends in the western U.S. No surprise, temperatures are on the rise, and along with that will come changes in the way we receive our preciptation (which has already been documented). Our region is expected to see more rain and less snow, and rain events are expected to be of shorter duration but with heavier rainfall. Snowpack is expected to continue to decrease, and drought is expected to become more extreme, which ultimately leads to more fire weather days. None of this is great news, but it’s important to understand what we are in for. I also attended a talk about non-target impacts that can arise from certain herbicde treatments used to control bird cherry (Prunus padus) in Alaska, which brought me back to my time attending the Alaska Invasive Species Workshop in Anchorage.
The following day, the breakout sessions continued, and dozens of talks were given throughout the day. It’s impossible to attend them all, and unfortunately a few of the talks that I really wanted to hear were cancelled. One interesting talk that I’m glad I got to see was about liquid-applied cellulosic mulches used to replace polyethylene sheet mulches (black plastic) in strawberries and other crops. The results seen so far seem promising, and I’m eager to follow this topic to see where it goes and hopefully even try it out myself one day.
During the meeting, there were also a series of posters on display that summarized research being doing by some of the attendees. I didn’t get a chance to read them all, but a few standouts included posters about using prescriptive grazing to help control tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius) populations in Colorado, using an electrical current to help manage weeds in blueberry farms, and weed seed predation by ground beetles in diversified wheat production cropping systems. If a poster is about some form of novel or underused method of weed management, I’m definitely going to read it.
It might seem a little odd for me to be attending meetings like this, especially since I don’t work as a weed scientist or in weed management, and much of what is discussed, namely presentations about all the various herbicide treatments used in rangelands, turfgrass, and large-scale agriculture, don’t concern me (nor do they really interest me). Talks like this are what you would expect to hear at a weed science conference, so despite not being my thing, I appreciate that such talks often include discussions about herbicide resistance and the responsible use of herbicides, climate change, drought and responsible water use, and adaptive management approaches to weed control. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to attend this meeting again – it may be another 5 years or more – but whenever the opportunity presents itself, I’ll be there.
Next Up: Botany 2023 is coming to Boise in July. I’ll see you there!