Beware of Cheatgrass

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an invasive grass that is widespread in Missoula County. This grass is a winter annual, meaning the seeds germinate in the fall and the plant overwinters, taking advantage of late fall and early spring moisture at a time when most of our native plants are dormant. This growth characteristic of cheatgrass gives it a competitive advantage over many of our native species and can be particularly problematic when trying to reseed disturbed areas.

Cheatgrass also is an effective invasive due to its efficient and prolific seed production. Seeds can germinate soon after they mature, typically around late July in the Blackfoot. Humans as well as livestock, pets and wildlife facilitate dispersal by transporting seeds across the landscape. Cheatgrass seeds are referred to as awns and have a sharp, pointed shape that attaches easily to your pets and livestock and at times can cause trouble by working their way into the skin and causing infections, not to mention ruin a good pair of socks and shoes. To add insult to injury cheatgrass is also highly flammable and is contributing to frequent outbreaks of fire in the West.

Taking an integrated approach

Cheatgrass is an annual plant. This is the biggest thing working in a land managers favor. Stopping the cycle of seed production will help curb this plant's ability to dominate the landscape. The seeds are relatively short lived so preventing seed production for several growing season should help effectively manage this plant.

As with all unwanted species, prevention is the number one tool to manage for cheatgrass. Limiting grazing, soil disturbance and cleaning equipment will help prevent the establishment of cheatgrass in the first place.

A combination of tools that help prevent the seed establishment such as mowing, handpulling, herbicide, tillage, early spring targeted grazing could be effective in helping reduce and/or eliminate your cheatgrass infestation.

For more specific information on ways to control cheatgrass, herbicide recommendation and to talk about your situation, please contact the Missoula County Weed District 406-258-4219.


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