Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is an invasive plant related to morning glories. Their winding vines grow into a tangled mass which can strangle other plants, and a single plant can produce hundreds of seeds. The plants can also store nutrients in the roots which allow them to regrow from fragments, thus it can be very difficult to get rid of field bindweed. It will return even after chemical or physical control (tilling or livestock grazing), but it does not tolerate shade very well. Thus, a more competitive crop, such as a taller wheat which will shade out nearby shorter plants, reduce the viability of bindweed.
Last week, Tessa, Lazarro, and I went to several farms in and around Big Sandy and Lewistown, Montana in order to sample fields battling field bindweed. To do so, we harvested wheat, field bindweed, and other weed biomass by cutting all above-ground plant material inside a harvesting frame. These will be dried and weighed, to measure infestation load and the effect on wheat production.
The sampling locations are consistent with previous years to track how different farm management practices influence infestations. This means using GPS coordinates to hike out to spots in the middle of large fields.
It also means getting very dirty driving and walking through dusty fields!