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Cheating cheatgrass: new research to combat a wily invasive weed

Author(s): Gail Wells
Year Published: 2012

Cheatgrass and its cousin, red brome, are exotic annual grasses that have invaded and altered ecosystem dynamics in more than 41 million acres of desert shrublands between the Rockies and the Cascade-Sierra chain. A fungus naturally associated with these Bromus species has been found lethal to the plants' soil-banked dormant seeds. Supported by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), researchers Susan Meyer, Phil Allen, and Julie Beckstead cultured this fungus, Pyrenophora semeniperda, in the laboratory and developed an experimental field application that, in some trials, killed all the dormant soil-banked Bromus seeds, leaving none to germinate the following year. The team's work opens the way to a commercial biocontrol product that may be capable of safely eliminating the seed bank of persistent invasive grasses. Biocontrol could be used in conjunction with other weed control measures and conservation strategies to make sagebrush-steppe lands less susceptible to reinvasion. A biocontrol tool effective against Bromus seeds would be a boon to managers working to restore the native bunchgrasses, forbs, and shrubs that characterize an intact shrub-steppe ecosystem.

Citation: Wells, Gail. 2012. Cheating cheatgrass: new research to combat a wily invasive weed. Joint Fire Science Program; Fire Science Digest. May 2012(13): 1-11.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Invasive Species, Management Approaches, Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Research Brief or Fact Sheet
NRFSN number: 12130
FRAMES RCS number: 14822
Record updated: May 24, 2018