A new field study confirms that an invasive weed called medusahead has growth advantages over most other grass species, suggesting it will continue to spread across much of the West, disrupt native ecosystems and make millions of acres of grazing land almost worthless.
The research, by scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, was one of the most comprehensive studies ever done that compared the relative growth rate of this invasive annual grass to that of other competing species in natural field conditions.
It found that medusahead has a faster growth rate, a longer period of growth and produced more total biomass even than cheatgrass -- another invading species that is a major problem in its own right but not as devastating as medusahead.
"Medusahead is now spreading at about 12 percent a year over 17 western states," said Seema Mangla, a researcher in the OSU College of Forestry. "Once established, it's very hard to get rid of. It displaces native grasses and even other invasive species that animals can still eat. Unless we do more to stop it, medusahead will take over much of the native grassland in the West. This is a devil species."
The full story is available at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101111141851.htm.
Reprinted in part from Science Daily