Mites program launched

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By Lee Einer

A local agency is launching an effort to stop the spread of an invasive, perennial weed native to Europe.

The San Miguel County Cooperative Extension Service will be holding a bindweed mite program at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial Middle School Auditorium.

The bindweed infests every county in New Mexico. It can be seen throughout the city.

Field bindweed takes its name from its habit of twining around other plants in the vicinity, eventually choking them out. It is extremely difficult to kill, experts say. Its seeds can remain dormant for more than 20 years, waiting for the proper conditions to germinate.

Its root system can extend 20 feet deep. It threatens both native plants and cultivated crops and is officially designated as a noxious weed in most U.S. states and several foreign countries, experts say.

Field bindweed has no natural enemies native to the United States. Bindweed is not a serious problem in Europe because of the bindweed mite, a microscopic insect that feeds exclusively on field bindweed, experts say.

Bindweed mites have been imported to the United States and have been used successfully for natural management of the bindweed problem for several years.

The mites do not harm other plant species, and die off when there is no more bindweed for them to feed on.

The San Miguel County Cooperative Extension Service’s bindweed mite program will make available the bindweed mite to area residents so that they may manage bindweed infestations in a natural and earth-friendly way.

Forage agronomist Leonard Lauriault of New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center will be speaking. Lauriault has been cultivating bindweed mites in Tucumcari successfully for several years.

If the weather isn’t too cold or rainy, he will inoculate some bindweed with the mite.