A fungus could halt the advance of cheatgrass

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.







  1. ClapSo Avatar

    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. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    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. jimbob Avatar

    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. be Avatar

    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. Eric Avatar

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

  6. ClapSo Avatar

    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. Eric Avatar

    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.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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