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  • Writer's pictureJen Haynes

Kochia Invades Grain Fields

Kochia (Kochia scoparia) also know as summer cypress and burning bush is native to Asia and central Europe. It was brought here as an ornamental shrub by Europeans. Kochia can contain high nitrate levels and sulphate toxicity. So, while it is palatable to livestock, it is toxic in high levels.

Kochia is often found in dry areas, along roadsides, in ditches and disturbed habitats. It is found on grasslands, flood plains, riverbanks, and sagebrush plant communities. It has created a problem in the Boundary in dry land grain fields.

Kochia is an annual which germinates in the early spring and is very tolerant of frost. It is sort of pyramid shaped. It has lots of branches and can grow anywhere from 0.3m to 1.5m in height and its tap root can go down to as much as 3m. It is often tinged in red on the branches and stem. It has plenty of stalk-less narrow leaves with soft hairs on the undersides. It has inconspicuous flowers usually encircled by long hairs which are located between the leaves and stem.

It spreads by seed. It doesn’t stay in the seed bank. Most of the seeds are dead after one year. Seed production ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 seeds per plant. Seeds spread especially fast when the stem breaks off at the base and the wind blows it around like tumbleweed.

An option for control of kochia is early tillage in the spring. Because kochia is an annual it can be dug or pulled, and it won’t regrow from the root left in the ground. As a method of prevention, you can plant perennial grasses. It has been found that kochia doesn’t do well in vigorous stands of perennial grasses. There are no biological controls available currently. If you choose to control your kochia with herbicide you need to be aware that it can become resistant to certain herbicides. For more information on invasive species you can contact the Boundary Invasive Species Society on Facebook,, and 250-446-2232.

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