Alabama Farmers Urged To Be On Lookout For Tropical Soda Apple
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is advising Alabama farmers and cattlemen to be on the lookout for Tropical Soda Apple, a noxious weed that has infested more than 1 million acres in Florida.Lee Tuten of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the weed already has been found in seven south Alabama counties with new cases being reported weekly. Because cattle love Tropical Soda Apple fruit, the weed is easily spread in dirty hay or when cattle are brought in from out of state with viable seeds still in their digestive systems.”We are encouraging people to hold cattle they purchase from Florida in catch pens for seven days before turning them loose in the pasture,” Tuten said. “Cattlemen should also know who they are purchasing hay and cattle from and ask them whether they have Tropical Soda Apple on their farms.”Tuten said by the time most farmers realize they have the weed, it’s already a problem. So far, the only way to control the weed is with multiple treatments of herbicide (Grazon and Remedy). Currently, APHIS is working with the State Department of Agriculture and Industries to provide free treatment of land known to have Tropical Soda Apple.Tuten said Tropical Soda Apple grows until a killing frost and can be identified by its fruit, which resembles a small watermelon early in the season and then turns yellow at maturity. Plants can grow to six feet in height with large, drooping leaves and a thick, one-inch stem that is green at the soil level. Tuten cautions farmers not to confuse Tropical Soda Apple with more common Horse Nettle, which grows to four feet with upright leaves and a thin, brown stem at the soil level.Producers who think they have Tropical Soda Apple on their farms can call Tuten at (334) 288-6058 or Dr. Tomm Johnson with the Alabama Department of Agriculture at (334) 240-7275.