Menacing Wild Weed Invades South Mississippi

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell held up a blade of grass and said "You feel there's a very, very strong courseness to it. There's courseness along the surface of the blade and real sharp on the outside".

The rough blade of grass comes from a very vicious weed. It's called Cogon Grass . Spell calls it the worst weed in Mississippi.

"We see what a massive root system it has? Its root system has very, very sharp tips on the root," Spell said.

It's so sharp, cattle won't eat it, birds won't nest in it, even humans avoid it. Now, Cogon Grass is taking over acres and acres of pastures and pine plantations and suffocating everything in its path.

"So many people today are still unaware of the presence of it and how fast it spreads. Wind can spread the seeds maybe 15 miles. Because it's so dominating, it completely destroys any other type of plant life. It doesn't take it very long to completely ruin pastures by taking over. If you were to plant young pine trees, by this time next year, it would completely kill everyone of them. It dominates anything. Nothing can live within it," Spell said.

The weed is growing so fast, it now covers some 50 counties in Mississippi. Cogon Grass is not just a nuisance, it's also dangerous.

"Because it grows so dense in pastures and around trees and plantation pines, if a fire gets in it, it causes such a dense hot fire," Spell said.

The Agriculture Department is now going on the attack. Armed with a $250,000 federal grant, the department bought herbicide to weaken this aggressive weed.

"This is a wonderful program that really allows a landowner to come in in the early stages, get it treated, get it killed and get back to the good use of the property," Spell said.

The State Agriculture Department plans to distribute the herbicide to landowners to spray up to 80 properties throughout Mississippi. The department is applying for another federal grant to continue the program next year.