A friend just forwarded me a booklet that was created by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that provides a comprehensive look at controlling Reed Canary Grass, a plant that has virtually eliminated diversity in many of the area's wetlands in just the last ten years.
This is an aggressive plant that was promoted as a good choice for livestock forage until fairly recently. In fact, you might see if for sale now and then. It grows particularly well in sunny, low-lying areas. And, once it is established, it is very difficult to get rid of it. I suppose, if you are planting it as feed for your livestock, that's a good thing. But, it seems that once it takes hold in a wetland - especially one where it is not wanted - it is very tough to eliminate.
The plant sprouts early - before most native species. By mid June, it has set seed - lots and lots of seed. It's a relatively tall grass, so the seed heads blow in the wind, spreading each plant's progeny far and wide. Each seed remains viable for several years, so it will take at least that long to get a handle on it, since you'll have to deplete the seedbank.
Reed Canary Grass is a perennial, meaning that not only do new plants grow from the seed, but last year's plants come back. The plant also spreads through rhizomes that extend from the parent plant up to 10 feet a year. The rhizomes form a dense mat just beneath the soil surface, making it difficult for other plants to germinate.
The guidebook, pictured at left, is called Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) Management Guide: Recommendations for Landowners and Restoration Professionals, Wisconsin Reed Canary Grass Management Working Group. 2009. You can download a copy by clicking here.
The booklet spells out quite clearly the correct use of a wide variety of management tools - burning, herbicide, excavation, mowing, tilling the soil, etc, etc. The bottomline is that there is no "one best way" to get rid of this invasive menace, but by being diligent and combining a variety of management techniques, you can get a handle on it - eventually.