Now that itís here, how do I get rid of it?!
Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is threatening the biodiversity of wetlands and other natural areas at an increasing rate, therefore there is a lot of interest in developing effective methods of control for this species. Unfortunately, control of reed canary grass has proven to be extremely difficult, and the lack of selective control methods makes this invasive species particularly problematic.
The control methods most commonly used are mechanical control, chemical control, and fire. Some experimentation with altering water levels and nutrient levels to suppress reed canary grass has also been done. Revegetation with native species is desired both to increase the quality of natural areas, and to try to reduce the availability of resources for reed canary grass re-establishment. Integrated managementócombining multiple control strategiesóis the most effective method of controlling reed canary grass once it is established, but of course, prevention of spread and establishment is the most ideal and cost-effective strategy of all. Long-term monitoring and continued control are necessary to detect and eliminate new populations of reed canary grass. No biocontrol agents have been identified for reed canary grass.
Adding to the complexity of reed canary grass control is the confusion regarding the species genetics and native/non-native status. Hutchison (1992) has argued that one should not attempt to eliminate all reed canary grass from a site, because of the risk of eliminating a native, presumably less-invasive variety. Instead, control of reed canary grass should only be attempted after carefully considering the level of threat to natural areas, and eradication of reed canary grass should only be considered if the population is rapidly spreading, extremely competitive, and rapidly displacing native species.
However, others would argue that the apparent ability of this species to respond quickly to changes in environmental conditions (such as disturbances and increased nutrient influx) and rapidly spread to other sites, along with the extreme difficulty of control after establishment, is reason enough to eliminate patches of reed canary grass while they are small and more manageable. Perhaps in cases where a small population of reed canary grass has been present in a natural area for many years without spreading or displacing other plants, control would seem unnecessary. But more and more, this is a rare case for reed canary grass. It seems safer to assume that any amount of reed canary grass poses a significant threat to a natural area in or around which it establishes. Waiting until it becomes a severe problem to begin control methods does not seem prudent, because the longer reed canary grass is present in a site, the more underground propagules (seed bank, rhizomes) will be stored. Additionally, if reed canary grass is present on a site, and not being controlled, it would be wise to monitor the population closely and take preventative measures, such as maintaining hydrology, preventing excess nutrient inputs, and preventing disturbances and erosion, because reed canary grass may capitalize on such a disturbance and rapidly spread to other sites. We cannot assume at this point that just because a population of reed canary grass hasnít spread yet, that it wonít do so in the future.
Unless otherwise noted, information on this page is based on the following sources in addition to the authorís personal experiences: Apfelbaum and Sams 1987; Galatowitsch et al. 1999; Hutchison 1992; Kilbride and Paveglio 1999; and Lyons 1998.