Original Published on Aug 04, 2022 at 15:00

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Stettler County’s Agriculture Services Board (ASB) heard concerns that municipal weed spraying may not be landing where it’s supposed to at all times. The discussion was held at the July 26 regular ASB meeting.

Coun. Ernie Gendre asked that the board, which is chaired by Coun. Les Stulberg and is comprised of county council, to discuss the issue of “herbicide crop damage,” and brought along several photos of what looked like heavy herbicide application in Stettler County ditches.

One photo showed some herbicide touching a canola crop and one photo showed what appeared to be herbicide touching a crop near a recently pushed back fence line.

Gendre stated he’d heard concerns from residents and he himself went out to look at the spot where the fence was pushed back and added the farmer hayed that ditch himself every year which took care of the weeds. 

Gendre stated it appears the vegetation was destroyed and he wanted to know which weed species were sprayed there.

Reeve Larry Clarke asked Gendre if the councillor contacted the county’s agriculture services department to look at the spots in question, and Gendre answered yes he did.

Director of Agriculture Services Quentin Beaumont confirmed he visited several of the spots in question but not the one that had the fence pushed back.

Coun. Justin Stevens, looking at the photos, stated he was concerned about spots with fairly steep slopes that appeared to have broad vegetation kill, and how that would affect erosion.

Reeve Clark stated it looked like pretty serious kill to him caused by a chemical like Roundup. 

Beaumont responded county staff never spray glyphosate-containing products like Roundup in a ditch.

When asked what would have been sprayed there?” Beaumont answered, “A heavy dose of something.” Beaumont stated that the spots he inspected appeared to have burn spots but saw some grass growing back in certain areas and it appeared to him the county may have oversprayed in some spots but wasn’t sure. 

However, he said there were options if the grass didn’t come back. “If it doesn’t come back we’ll re-seed it,” said Beaumont.

Gendre stated he felt some of the bare spots were caused by county staff as landowners don’t spray that way, pointing out large bare spots near power poles. The reeve disputed that assessment, however, noting it could be a farmer who tapped a power pole.

One photo showed a canola field affect by spraying and Beaumont said, “I’ll tell you straight up it was us.”

Board members then discussed the Stettler County ASB’s policy if spraying herbicide “fence to fence,” which may have caused a problem where the fence was pushed back as county staff wouldn’t have known where the property line was.

Coun. Paul McKay asked what Stettler County can do about farmers working in county ditches. Beaumont answered a bylaw exists with some fine options.

However, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy pointed out if farmers are haying county ditches it actually saves the county money on spraying and cutting work. Cassidy suggested leaving it unless the county needs drainage or road widening.

Cassidy also stated the county has lots of staff out and about who just need to keep an eye out for farmers haying county ditches and letting them know it’s fine unless drainage or road widening are needed.

Coun. Stulberg stated he also didn’t see a problem with it unless farmers are haying right up to the edge of the road.

Reeve Clarke stated he could also see a problem if the bank is worked off which could affect the condition of the road.

Cassidy suggested discussing these issues at upcoming town hall meetings. 

Gendre added he wondered if the county should be spraying fence to fence, and felt no herbicide should reach crops.

Councillors accepted the report as information.

Missing owls

Coun. McKay asked what kind of herbicide was used in an area within his division, Donalda-Red Willow.

Beaumont responded no weed spraying has been done north of Hwy. 12, but a county brush truck may have been spraying in that area.

McKay stated some residents were concerned that two Great Horned Owls were nesting in an area where the brush truck may have been spraying, and the owls haven’t been seen since.

Beaumont noted Stettler County uses herbicides that can touch cattle with no harm and most herbicides nowadays are very environmentally friendly. He confirmed the herbicide used in the brush truck is called Garlon XRT.

Beaumont stated he will look into McKay’s concerns and report back at a future meeting.

This item reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Coronation, Alberta