tectorum or downy brome) is an invasive annual grass from Eurasia that
has taken over many millions of acres of wildland in the interior western
US. It is a fierce competitor, and must be controlled in order to
restore these wildlands to desirable native vegetation.
Biocontrol using naturally occurring fungal pathogens is a promising cheatgrass control method with low environmental impact. Our goal is to identify and develop biocontrol 'critters' that can effectively reduce levels of cheatgrass as part of the restoration process, without harm to associated species.
Why cheatgrass biocontrol?
The cheatgrass fire cycle
Native desert shrublands are home to a host of different
organisms, and provide many important ecosystem services. Cheatgrass invades desert shrublands, especially those that have been disturbed by human activities.
Because it is a winter annual grass, cheatgrass dries out early in the summer, and forms a continuous carpet of fine fuels. These fine fuels greatly increase the likelihood, severity and extent of shrub-destroying fires.
Once a shrubland burns, conversion to a persistent cheatgrass monoculture often follows--enough cheatgrass seeds survive the fire to establish a new stand.