Jeri Geren

Jeri Geren gave tips on identifying noxious weeds at the recent Women in Agriculture Conference in Parsons.

Women’s diverse roles in agriculture were reflected in the presentations during the 10th annual Women in Agriculture Conference at the Southeast Research and Extension Center in Parsons, Kansas. Topics ranged from state legislative updates, identifying and reporting meth labs, and lease laws to safe canning methods, harvest season meal ideas and local program highlights.

Labette County High School senior Ivy Gatton gave a presentation on her role in agriculture as a young student and her entrepreneurship project. With a wide range of ages and agricultural backgrounds, the Women in Agriculture Conference was dedicated to educating and celebrating area women.

Lease Law

Area extension agent Keith Martin spoke to the attendees on lease and fencing laws in the state of Kansas, working through some of the common misconceptions landowners have when entering into a lease.

“In many cases when people lease their land, they give up a lot more of their rights than they realize,” Martin said. “They really are leasing all of the surface rights to that land.”

All oral leases are covered under Kansas law in the absence of a written agreement between the parties, giving the lease an effective date from March 1 to Feb. 28. During that time the landowner cannot use the land without the permission of the lessee, including for hunting or other recreational purposes.

While Martin estimates more than 90 percent of area leases are longstanding oral agreements, he said a written agreement can eliminate a majority of landowner-lessee conflict. 

 “A written lease is a great idea because it will force you to have a conversation about some things and make decisions,” Martin said. “If you don’t have a written lease, things like who handles noxious weeds or fence upkeep are in kind of a best-guess scenario.”

When comparing cash rent to crop-share options, Martin said the best scenario will be different for each individual depending on their relationship with the tenant, familiarity with farming practices, and their financial or estate planning goals.

“Be prudent when you enter a new agreement,” Martin said. “Talk to your neighbors, talk to an attorney and find out as much information as you can before you enter in to a lease.”

Relationships play a vital role in lease agreements, especially in oral lease agreements. Martin said leases take commitment and understanding between the two parties, estimating oral leases to last a statewide average of 17 years. 

“Hopefully in any kind of lease agreement, there is good communication and a mutual respect between the two parties,” Martin said. “A lack of mutual respect can be damaging to both parties in a lease agreement.”

Noxious Weeds

Correct identification is a critical component to controlling noxious weeds while maintaining pasture biodiversity. Local extension agent Jeri Geren gave conference attendees some information on the top noxious weeds in the area and how to control them.

Geren’s first advice was to check the statewide noxious weed list to identify problem plants in the field and find economic methods to eradicate them. 

 “If you’re controlling any of the 12 species on the state’s noxious weed list or the two county options, the county’s weed department can sell you herbicide at cost,” Geren said.

The state weed lists consists of 12 weeds causing statewide problems, and two weeds counties can individually recognize as problem weeds in their county. Labette County adds both county options — bull thistle and multiflora rose — to their list. Other weeds on the statewide list include bur ragweed, Canada thistle, field bindweed, hoary cress, Johnsongrass, kudzu, leafy spurge, musk thistle, pignut, quackgrass, Russian knapweed, and sericea lespedeza.

Musk thistle, sericea lespedeza and Johnsongrass topped Geren’s list of problem weeds for southeast Kansas, with sericea lespedeza as the most prevalent.

“According to data from the county level noxious weed departments, we have more acres in sericea lespedeza than any other of our top weeds on the state list,” Geren said. “If you look at statewide data for Kansas, however, the state as a whole deals with more musk thistle than sericea lespedeza.”

Sericea lespedeza is an aggressive and undesirable plant and, as an import from China, has no natural predators in Kansas. While farmers and ranchers are dedicated to getting the widespread problem under control across the state, Geren cautioned them against getting the plant confused with native lespedezas.

“Slender lespedeza is a native lespedeza,” Geren said. “It’s beneficial for a lot of our wildlife and is eaten by white-tailed deer, quail and turkeys.”

Bloom time is sooner for slender lespedeza but the deep rosy-purple to white color of the blooms is very distinctive, Geren said. Flowers are very small and the leaves are different in shape and veining versus sericea lespedeza.

Another common case of mistaken identity is between musk thistle, bull thistle and teasel, Geren said.

“Bull thistles have a bloom shaped like a pineapple and the heads do not get near the size of a musk thistle — which will be by far our largest thistle,” Geren said. “I also wanted to point out the differences between the bull thistle and teasel, which we have in abundance but is not a thistle.”

While teasel is also a spiky plant with purple blooms, its tines are not as plentiful or as large as musk thistle or bull thistle, and its blooms are shaped differently. Geren encouraged producers struggling with weed identification or control, especially with noxious weeds, to contact their local extension office for more information and assistance.