Because cheatgrass stands dry out by mid-June, fires are more likely to occur earlier in the season. People are now used to seeing cheatgrass-dominated landscapes, but it’s not what we should see. Leaf sheaths and blades are densely covered with soft hair. It probably wouldn’t have outcompeted native vegetation if early settlers hadn’t also introduced large numbers of livestock like cattle and sheep into sagebrush country. So, WHERE in the landscape does your cheatgrass problem exist? Basically cheatgrass is comparable to tissue paper covering the landscape — an easily-ignited fuel that carries fire quickly and spreads it rapidly. Why is cheatgrass a problem in the Great Basin? How did you become versed on reducing cheatgrass? The requirements of. Cheatgrass makes great fuel for wildfire because it is usually dead and dry by mid summer and burns easily and quickly. Controlling cheatgrass early before it becomes a problem is best. In fact, green or brown, cheatgrass makes most ranchers cringe. To reduce the invasion of cheatgrass (and other weeds), always avoid disturbing soil. Hopefully people will build on what we have now, and we’ll have a solution someday. Cheatgrass often occurs as a significant component of foothills rangeland vegetation along the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains. Restoration is tough in an environment that only gets 12 inches of precipitation in a good year. I’ve been involved with cheatgrass one way or another since I started working with the BLM 42 years ago as a range conservationist. Take care not to bring in seeds on your clothes, shoes, pets or gear. Cheatgrass is adapted to efficiently use the increased nitrogen in the soil after a fire, and invades empty spaces created by the fire. Tony Koski. Now cheatgrass is one of the biggest invasive species problems in the western U.S., estimated to cover 50-70 million acres. The top of the stem has several sets of seed-heads, which are compact and erect at first and then droop or nod, creating a soft, flat appearance from a distance. One shared goal between private and public landowners is to increase “Ecosystem Resilience and Resistance.” This means making sagebrush range more resilient and able to bounce back after a wildfire, which in turn makes it more resistant to further cheatgrass invasion. Work never seemed like work—it’s always been my passion, and I’ll continue to stay involved as long as I can.Â. The problem of a shortened fire cycle is one that is well documented. We also need to restore native plants that will successfully compete with it. Because cheatgrass grows in thick, dense mats and dries out at least four to six weeks earlier than native perennials and grasses, it burns stronger, more often and faster than other typical wildfire fuel sources. And it happens to die just in time to provide fuel for the West’s fire season. Cheatgrass seeds in the soil take advantage of the nutrients fires release to grow large and produce abundant seed (over a thousand per plant in some cases). In addition, range fires over the past decade have added to cheatgrass spread in Nevada. In addition, cheatgrass doesn’t meet the needs of most wildlife species. Cheatgrass is an annual grass native to Europe and eastern Asia that European settlers brought to North America in the late 1800s as forage for grazing their livestock. Cutting (mowing or weed-whacking) before seeds ripen is not effective unless it is done repeatedly until soil moisture is too low to permit further growth. Cheatgrass is well adapted to the high desert climate and can out-compete many native plants. I’ve lived in Boise, Idaho for most of my career, but I think my early background farming in Kansas really struck a note with me: it gave me a strong interest in finding solutions to reduce problems on working lands. A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that overgrazing could be helping an invasive grass to flourish. It’s an annual invasive grass that is native to Europe and eastern Asia, not North America. Eradication of cheatgrass from large areas is not easy. Photo: Mike Pellant. The cheatgrass problem could be solved. I also enjoy spending time with my five granddaughters and my family. It is an aggressive invader of our native bunchgrass and bitterbrush shrub-steppe habitat, but is also found among Ponderosa pines and Douglas fir. Copyright © 2020 Sage Grouse Initiative.All rights reserved. Soil solarization … I … Cheatgrass is an invasive plant species that reduces forage quality and increases the potential for large and more frequent fires. Cheatgrass was able to occupy areas where the native vegetation had been reduced, beginning its persistent march across the landscape. We now have fire rehabilitation programs that restore native vegetation by seeding plants like bluebunch wheatgrass and sagebrush. Efforts should focus on reducing cheatgrass dominance and increasing perennial vegetation. Cheatgrass dies just in time for a typical fire season to start and is an extremely flashy fuel—one that can turn a simple lightning strike or discarded cigarette butt into a raging inferno in minutes. The good news is that — after this rehabilitation — burned lands don’t convert to cheatgrass, which decreases future fire hazard. That differs from previous studies that have found grazing can better manage that plant -- cheatgrass -- which threatens rangeland habitat. We have a number of different approaches that can reduce or remove cheatgrass. In the eastern US B. tectorum is common along … Non-selective" herbicides (like Roundup) will kill cheatgrass but they will also kill any other plant nearby too, and in large areas, is not cost-effective. The seedheads have sharp tips with barbed ½ inch long spikes (awns) sticking out. The aggressive, invasive weed from central Asia takes full advantage of any environment it finds itself in, cheating native plants out of the nutrients and water they need to thrive. The magnitude of the problem tends to overwhelm us. Although mature native grasses can get water from lower soil regions, seedlings cannot get their roots deep enough into soil to access water before drought sets in, and thus, die of thirst. Lightning strikes can … MY PROBLEM – My yard and pasture are great examples of how invasive and prolific this annual plant is. Plus, cheatgrass has very fine leaves and stems, which makes it ignite easily and causes fire to spread rapidly. He also Even non-open seed-heads or flowers can germinate. It doesn’t stay green long enough to provide nutritious forage during the summer and fall, nor does it provide the vegetation structure that many species need for cover or nesting habitat. After it was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 1861, cheatgrass found a home throughout the Intermountain West. Since the arrival of cheatgrass, other equally aggressive invasive grasses have been introduced, such as medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) and ventenata (Ventenata dubia).Summers are also becoming hotter and drier, making the fire season longer and giving cheatgrass a greater advantage over native plants. Unlike perennial native grasses, cheatgrass is an annual grass that grows in the spring and then dies off between late April and June, depending on local precipitation patterns. Replied September 11, 2017, 7:18 PM EDT. through grazing management systems. Cheatgrass, an annual which came to the West from Asia in the late 1800s, is super flammable, and areas of the Great Basin where the grass dominates burn every three to … In 2002, the federal government spent $1.4 billion to suppress wildfires in the United States, most of which were cheatgrass-fueled. 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