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Cheatgrass

Fall 2009

Foiling an invasive

Sometimes, figuring something out only deepens the overall mystery.

Take Pseudomonas fluorescens D7, for example.

Ann Kennedy, a USDA-Agricultural Research Service soil microbiologist at Washington State University, has isolated these native bacteria as a perfectly natural way to fight cheatgrass, also known as downy brome, scientific name Bromus tectorum. Recently, she and her colleagues were awarded a large grant to test the effectiveness of Pseudomonas fluorescens D7 for controlling cheatgrass in rangeland.

Cheatgrass, which was introduced in the late 19th century as a forage crop, is an aggressive invader, a grass that has, according to WSU botanist Richard Mack, changed … » More …

Sparingly introduced in waste places

Although scientists have been aware of biological invasions at least since the mid-1800s, when Charles Darwin noted the rampant spread of European species in South America, only recently has the scientific community recognized the broader threat invaders pose to biodiversity and environmental quality. Richard Mack of Washington State University recalls that when he first started talking about the cheatgrass invasion at annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), his presentations would be scheduled for the “Miscellaneous” session on the meeting’s last day.

“Thirty years ago, it wasn’t on the radar screen as an academic topic worthy of investigation,” he says. “It felt … » More …