Gonzaga University biology professors Julie Beckstead and David L. Boose were recently awarded $247,000 in federal grants for a three-year study on pyrenophora semeniperda, a fungus that attacks the seeds of cheatgrass.

Something like this could save the rangelands of the West.  Story in the New York Times. Associated Press.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

7 Responses to A fungus could halt the advance of cheatgrass

  1. avatar ClapSo says:

    Is there any worry that this fungus could end being like the cane toad fiasco? I always worry when they use one species to attack another. It sometimes leads to the newly introduced species become invasive itself.

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  2. You always have to worry about detrimental effects on non-target species.

    Does anyone know about this fungus. I believe, I have actually seen it in stands of unburned cheatgrass which have gone through an unusual wet period, such as an early August week of rain, after seed drop, but before the time when cheatgrass seeds sprout.

  3. avatar jimbob says:

    I agree Clapso and something like a fungus could be so difficult to investigate that I’d worry about the government using it without enough study. It has happened many times. However, if safe and effective it would be fantastic.

    I’ve always wanted to work on the problem of ridding ecosystems of invasive species when I am done teaching. At least somebody is trying!

  4. avatar be says:

    the fungus seems like a promising developement, Clapso gets it right with the concern though. i hope it works. even more, it’d be nice to see a serious effort on the other end ~ i.e. to stop the spread of cheatgrass by removing those factors that we can control and that we know contribute to spread. it seems like that’d be the best bang for the buck.

  5. avatar Eric says:

    Fortunately, it isn’t a newly introduced species. It’s apparently been here a while.

  6. avatar ClapSo says:

    The factor that worries me, even though this fungus in not new, is how will a large food source, such as this cheatgrass over population, effect the bloom of this fungus. Will the resultant (hopefully temporary) over population of fungus cause other negative effects?

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  7. avatar Eric says:

    Yeah that’s true. Another unknown factor. Fungi are organisms essential to most ecosystems’ health, but their artificial spread over wide areas could be detrimental. Personally, I hope it works. It will take about 10 years according to Julie Beckstead to grow large enough quantities to spread. Hopefully, in the interim they will thoroughly test the species with native plants.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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