Experts from the Agricenter have identified the weed as a strain of Johnson grass new to the area. When it reaches a certain height and thickness, the weed can only be cut with a Bush Hog. This new weed and other more common strains have sprung up in record numbers this year, thanks to spring flooding followed by a dry summer.
This problem plus a rising number of unmaintained vacant lots due to the housing crisis have created a big problem for the city’s grounds maintenance crews. The crews are charged with cutting vacant or neglected overgrown lots, and there are more this year — many overgrown with the new, thick Johnson grass — than in years past.
“The problem is huge. It’s horrendous. It’s something we weren’t prepared for,” Horne said. “But we’ve developed some strategies to help mitigate that.”
For starters, the city has upped the number of city grounds crews from five to 23, with about five members per crew. They also went from working with four independent grounds contractors to nine. These crews are responsible for maintaining yards belonging to negligent owners and city-owned properties, as well as public right-of-ways and thoroughfares.
(via the Memphis Flyer)