Working together to strengthen and support noxious weed management efforts in Montana.


MSU Report for the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund Advisory Council

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013


This report for the Montana Noxious Weed Management Advisory Council was assembled in compliance with the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund Act and Administrative Rules which require an annual report from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and Montana State University Extension Service on current projects and future plans. This report is a compilation of major weed science research and education activities conducted by MSU over the past three years and includes highlights of funded Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund grants as well as comprehensive reporting of all weed science research products and education funding and activities.

Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund Projects 2010–2012

  • Biological Control of Common Tansy and Oxeye Daisy, Jeff Littlefield
  • Biological Control of Invasive Hawkweed and Tansy Ragwort, Jeff Littlefield
  • Biological Control of Russian Knapweed, Jeff Littlefield
  • Biological Control of Whitetop and Perennial Pepperweed,Jeff Littlefield
  • Can Biological Control and Targeted Sheep Grazing be Integrated to Suppress Spotted Knapweed?, Jeff Mosley
  • Cheatgrass Ecology and Integrated Management, Jane Mangold
  • Continental Divide Invasive Weed Barrier Zone, Kim Goodwin
  • Establishing and Monitoring Insectaries for Yellow Toadflax Biocontrol, David Weaver
  • Herbicide Resistance Extension Information for Montana Producers, William Dyer
  • Identifying and Testing Candidate Agents for Russian Olive Biocontrol, David Weaver
  • Implementing EDRR in Montana Using the INVADERS Database, Jane Mangold
  • Integration of Pathogens, Sheep, and Herbicides to Manage Cheatgrass, Fabian Menalled
  • Missouri River Watershed Coalition Coordination, Elizabeth Galli-Noble
  • Rangeland Revegetation Revisited, Jane Mangold        Saltcedar Effects on Mycorrhizal Fungal Communities and Screening of Native Species for Restoration, Erik Lehnhoff
  • Tall Buttercup Ecology and Integrated Management, Jane Mangold
  • Weed Free Borders Protection Program, Kim Goodwin
  • Weed Management Certification Program, Jane Mangold
  • Weed Seedling Identification Guide, Jane Mangold

Download a copy of the complete report 2013 MSU Annual Report to the MNWTF

MSU April Weed Post – Managing Cheatgrass

Monday, April 15th, 2013


The April Weed Post summarizes some recent research on managing cheatgrass with imazapic on range, pasture, and CRP in Montana.

Introduction: Cheatgrass is a winter annual grass. Most cheatgrass germinates and emerges in the fall, overwinters as a seedling and resumes growth early in the spring, taking advantage of early season soil moisture. Spraying cheatgrass seedlings when they are most susceptible to herbicide is critical for effective control, but timing of applications can be complex because sometimes cheatgrass seedling emergence can continue fall through spring, depending on precipitation patterns. The herbicide imazapic (Plateau®) has been the focus of research and on-the-ground management of cheatgrass in many areas of the western U.S. Imazapic has both soil and foliar activity and is labeled for pre- and post-emergent application. Imazapic has been applied by both researchers and range managers in Montana with mixed results.

Download a complete copy of the April MSU Weed Post

MSU Research updates

Thursday, April 12th, 2012


MSU has published a weed research update.   It includes information on the following:

  • Mechanisms driving nonnative plant-mediated changes in small mammal populations and communities
  • Wild Oat Herbicide Resistance
  • Russian olive removal and revegetation
  • Impacts of saltcedar on ecosystems in Montana
  • Sulfur cinquefoil life history in northwest Montana
  • Vegetation surveys to quantify weed threats
  • Toadflax research
  • Common tansy control in natural areas

Download the MSU April 2012 Monthly Weed Post for complete details.

Cheatgrass – MSU Monthly Weed Post

Sunday, February 12th, 2012


Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum)is not a noxious weed, but it is a regulated plant.   MWCA provides some basic information on this plant on our website.  It is of concern for many reasons.

Download and this new publication from Montana State University.

Visit the MWCA Weed ID page for details about cheatgrass.

Weed of the Week – Cheatgrass

Thursday, September 9th, 2010


Cheatgrass is a regulated plant and not a Montana listed noxious weed.

Introduction Cheatgrass is known by a variety of names including:  downy brome, downy cheat, and downy bromegrass.  Whatever name you know it by you probably know it is one of the most problematic weeds in Montana.  Being a winter annual has given it some advantages over other plants.  Winter annuals germinate in the fall and continue to rapidly grow until temperatures are no longer conducive of growth.  It is possible under certain conditions that growth will continue throughout the winter, especially in the root system.  Germination may occur in the spring as well, depending on conditions.  Whether or not it continues to grow throughout the winter, fall germination gives cheatgrass a considerable advantage over most of our natives.  In addition to this advantage, cheatgrass has an incredibly rapid growth rate.  Five weeks after germination cheatgrass has twice the biomass of desirable grasses that have had the same length of time to grow.

Cheatgrass originated in Asia and was accidentally introduced to North American multiple times in several independent events.  Some of the first introductions are thought to be from ship ballast and railroad packing materials.  The first report of cheatgrass in North America came from British Columbia in 1890.  Cheatgrass was first reported in Montana in 1898 in Missoula County and by 1980 every county in the state had it.

Concerns Depletion of soil water is one of the main processes by which cheatgrass competes with perennial vegetation.  It is able to deplete soil water before it is available to other vegetation because of its fall germination and rapid growth.  The roots of cheatgrass can be much deeper in the soil tapping into the water table and depleting it before other roots have had the opportunity to reach those depths.  It is possible that cheatgrass will diminish the underground water reserves and produce seed for the next generation before the hot, dry part of our summers, leaving no water for other plants that are trying to survive and produce seed.

Cheatgrass has a dramatic effect on the fire regimes on grasslands.  Cheatgrass has the tendency to fill in the spaces between bunchgrasses, which increases the fuel for fire and promotes larger and more frequent fires.  The shortened interval and increases intensity of fires, due to cheatgrass, makes it difficult for perennial vegetation to recover before the next fire.  This leads to an increased population of cheatgrass, which in turn leads to more frequent and intense fires.  Eventually the perennial vegetation will be removed from the system and a monoculture of cheatgrass will remain.

Identification Cheatgrass plants can be anywhere from 6-24 inches tall depending on the resources available.  At emergence the leaves are browish-green.  They turn reddish-purple at maturity.  The leaf blades, which are covered in soft hairs, are around 1/32 inch wide and 2-6 inches long.  The seed-head droops to one side of the stem and has numerous 3/8-5/8 inch long awns (needle-like extension from the seeds).

What can you do? Prevention is the key!  If it is too late to prevent cheatgrass from establishing on your property, which it is for most of us, then there are a few other options.  The goal behind controlling and ultimately eradicating cheatgrass is to stop seed production.  Cheatgrass is an annual, meaning that every plant dies at the end of the growing season.  The only way for cheatgrass to persist in an area is for it to produce seeds every year.  These seeds are only viable for up to 3 years.  This means that if you can stop your cheatgrass from producing seeds for 3 years, you will have a greatly reduced the population.  Some ways to stop seed production are:  mechanically (hand-pulling, mowing, weed-whacking), chemically (using herbicides – call the weed district for more information), grazing (it is good forage in the early spring for cattle, sheep, and goats), and revegetation (competition is imperative in reducing cheatgrass populations).  The integration of all of these tools is more effective than any of the tools alone.  Timing is also very important—mechanical control, chemical control, and grazing all must be done before the plant turns purplish-red (once it is purple seed production is too far along and the seeds will still be viable).  If you have any questions about cheatgrass or any other weed please call the weed district.

Visit the MWCA Weed ID pages for additional information and pictures of cheatgrass.

This series of articles was developed by Ravalli County.  If you would like to use these articles please contact Ravalli County Weed District Weed Coordinator at (406) 777-5842.

Bear Trap Success Story

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


In April of 2001 a float trip down the Madison River was conducted involving members of the BLM, the Montana Wilderness society, Madison County, U.S. Forest Service, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Gallatin County and other interested individuals. They determined that due to the size, density and location of the current infestations, that eradication was no longer an option but that a long term plan of control and containment would be more practical and cost effective. With members of the original group plus a Dow AgroSciences representative and others knowledgeable in noxious weed control a second float trip was conducted in August to help devise a plan of action.

Weed control was initiated in the fall of 2001 using both biological agents and herbicide. The biological control was released in the more inaccessible areas above the river and above the hiking trails, while herbicide was used along the trails and from the trails to the river, where public use is the highest. Herbicide application was done as a joint effort between the BLM and the Madison County Weed Board with joint spray days being held twice yearly, one in the spring and the other in the fall. After the first year of treatment we were surprised at how the native grasses came back and became fairly competitive with the knapweed. In 2002, 2003, and 2004 a private contractor treated the road leading into the trailhead and any of the trails that couldn’t be covered during the joint spray days. Starting in 2005 the BLM hired a crew of two sprayers that would take over the role of the private contractor. A minimum of three float trips a year were scheduled in order to gain access to some infestations of Leafy Spurge that are inaccessible by land.

To date the project has met with great success. The size and density of the noxious weed infestations has been reduced dramatically with the only problem being the re-infestation of some of the treated areas by cheatgrass. Beginning in 2010 we hope to get the original group together again to determine what our strategy for the next ten years will be and how we will handle the re-vegetation of some of the areas infested by cheatgrass.

MSU Montguide: Cheatgrass: Identification, Biology and Integrated Management

Friday, November 20th, 2009


Montana State University provides a great collection of extension publications.  Many of these are available online, and provide a great way to learn more about some of the noxious weeds in Montana.

Cheatgrass is being added to our Priority 3 List.  Learn all about this invader in in a Montguide devoted to cheatgrass.

This Montguide describes cheatgrass biological and ecological characteristics. It also provides mechanical, cultural and chemical management options to control this species in crop and non-crop situations.

Effects of Sugar on Cheatgrass

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008


Jessi L. Brunson for the degree of Master of Science in Botany and Plant Pathology presented on January 15, 2008.
Title: Yield Responses of Invasive Grasses to Carbon Doses.

The sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the northern Great Basin is severely degraded and continues to decline due in large part to the invasive, non-native annual grasses Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) and Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski (medusahead). Restoration of invasive-dominated areas is difficult, but can be enhanced by adding a carbon source, which stimulates microbes to immobilize soil inorganic N and reduces yields of fast-growing ruderal plants. How much carbon is needed to induce this effect is uncertain, so our research objectives were to establish a response to increasing carbon doses and calculate the lowest dose where a significant response was observed for 1) biomass, density, and seed production of cheatgrass and medusahead; 2) soil microbial biomass C and N; and 3) inorganic soil N. In November 2005 we applied 12 carbon doses ranging from 0 to 2400 kg C/ha as sucrose to plots planted with cheatgrass and medusahead at two sites in the northern Great Basin.

Read the complete article with the findings.