Buffelgrass is a drought-tolerant, invasive weed that threatens the biodiversity of native ecosystems in the drylands of the Americas and Australia. Unfortunately, though, land managers trying to control the weed often experience mixed results.

To shed new light on buffelgrass and the best control techniques, researchers from the University of Arizona reviewed 229 studies conducted in multiple ecosystems on multiple continents.

They discovered that for optimal control of buffelgrass, an integrated approach is best. For example, fire might be used to destroy adult plants, followed by herbicide applications or manual removal of new seedlings. Treatments of any type used in isolation were found to be uniformly less effective than those used in tandem.

The authors also discovered that buffelgrass takes advantage of environmental conditions to compete against native species. For example, the weed can access water deep in the soil profile and can exploit nutrients and space made available after wildfires or other disturbances. As a result, land managers might want to focus on restoring drought-tolerant native species that can compete effectively under similar conditions.

One thing missing from the studies reviewed: There was little information on the long-term impact of buffelgrass treatments on native plants and ecosystems. The authors say additional research is needed. Future work should also consider non academic efforts as many novel techniques to control buffelgrass are often employed by managers in the field to manage within their unique context and environment.

Want to know more? You can find the article on buffelgrass, “Pennisetum ciliare: a review of treatment efficacy, competitive traits, and restoration opportunities” in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management vol. 12 issue 4.

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