Once a cheater…chemical may help control cheatgrass | TSLN.com

Once a cheater…chemical may help control cheatgrass

Beverly Peterson
for Tri-State Livestock News
The Montana tour allowed folks to see the results of application of Esplanade. Photo courtesy Steve Saunders

The grass may look greener on the other side or the fence, but if it’s not palatable, it’s not very useful to a rancher. In fact, green or brown, cheatgrass makes most ranchers cringe.

Steve Saunders of Belgrade, Montana, says there is a new technology that can make the rancher’s view better all around. He says this new tool is being readied to help ranchers restore rangelands across the west. Until now, this battle of invasive winter annual grasses left the ranchers without options to manage these forage production robbing annual grasses. Saunders said a new product can control invasive annuals for multiple years with one herbicide application on annuals like Cheatgrass, Japanese brome, Ventenata, Medusahead and other annual grasses, as well as, many annual broadleaf weeds such as desert alyssum, mustards, kochia and numerous others.

This new herbicide is currently labeled for use on native rangelands for release and restoration of desirable vegetation on rangelands open spaces and natural areas for the control of invasive annual vegetation.

Currently, this liquid herbicide can be applied to rangeland that is not grazed by livestock. Bayer is preparing to submit a request to EPA asking for a new labeled use for applications on livestock grazed rangelands. It is now approved for application on livestock-grazed rangelands under special Section 18 Emergency Exemption for the control of Ventenata and Medusahead only, two new highly invasive grasses quickly spreading across the region. These two new invaders are more aggressive than cheatgrass. We may know how invasive cheatgrass is, so hold on to your hat, and learn how to identify these new aggressive grasses before your ranch is inundated by them, said Saunders. “You’ll want to get a handle on them and control them as soon as possible.” Check them out at: http://www.msuinvasiveplants.org/documents/publications/extension_publications/Ventenata.pdf, http://www.msuinvasiveplants.org/documents/publications/extension_publications/Medusahead_mt201802AG.pdf

“It has virtually no effect on the desirable native plants, both grasses and forbs, because the perennials are rooted deeper in the soil and draw their nutrients and soil moisture from deeper depths.” Steve Saunders, Belgrade, Mont.


Esplanade can also be used to control many other annual plants such as desert alyssum, mustard, kochia, and other annual broadleaf weeds. Esplanade is applied at 5 ounces per acre and must have one-quarter to one-half inch of rainfall after herbicide application to activate it and move it into the proper soil position to kill seeds as they germinate. The insolubility of the herbicide active ingredient Indaziflam stops its soil movement and ties it to soil particles within the top one-half inch of the soil surface. It only works by killing the newly emerging root radicals as they emerge from newly germinating annual seeds. Application can be done by ground at 20 gallons of water per acre or by aircraft application which needs 5-10 gallons of water per acre. One of the unique attributes of Esplanade is that it has no foliar effect on green growing plants, said Saunders.

The secret with this product, according to Suanders, lies in the fact that it controls invasive annuals because of the positional basis of where the herbicide resides in the soil. “It has virtually no effect on the desirable native plants, both grasses and forbs, because the perennials are rooted deeper in the soil and draw their nutrients and soil moisture from deeper depths,” he said. Cheatgrass roots are shallow, short at one-quarter to one-half inch deep. Therefore, Esplanade’s efficacy is determined by its root uptake by these short-rooted annuals. A single application of Esplanade gives 2-3 years or more of control from one application, he said.

Recent research at Colorado State University revealed that while cheatgrass seeds may lie dormant and viable on the soil for up to 4-5 years, one to two applications of Esplanade can get land managers past that period that these seeds may be present. If no further cheatgrass seed is reintroduced on the range site, elimination of cheatgrass is possible, said Saunders..

Esplanade hits the enemy where it needs it-at its roots. Esplanade has no foliar effect on actively growing trees, shrubs, flowers and perennial grasses. Deeper rooted perennial plants are not affected. There is little concern of movement of the Indaziflam once it is tied to the soil cation sites. In short, it stays put. It can be applied 1-2 months prior to a rainfall event because it is not appreciably broken-down by sunlight.

The best time to apply Esplanade is during the hot, dry summer as the annual plants are dried up and are going or have gone summer dormant. The key is to get the herbicide positioned correctly before any of the annuals germinate, so the herbicide can be in the right place to kill the newly emerging annual roots. “We are talking about applying it in June, July and August before fall rains can germinate the winter annuals,” said Saunders.

Any rangelands that are not grazed by livestock can have this product applied now. Buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and other non-livestock animals can graze Esplanade treated rangelands. Saunders said “this is the most exciting technology breakthrough I’ve ever seen in my 35 years working with rangelands in the western states!”

The invasive winter annual grass species, cheatgrass, officially named Bromus tectorum L., is particularly a problem on the millions and millions of acres of private ranchland and federal grazing lands across the west. This breakthrough technology gives western ranchers hope to manage invasive winter annual grasses and broadleaf weeds, said Saunders.

Saunders, a consultant for Bayer Environmental Science, revealed Bayer’s new restoration herbicide, Esplanade 200 SC during a July river float. The Triangle Area of Montana County Weed Coordinators hosted the annual Marias River Weed Float.

The purpose of the annual float trip is to spotlight weeds and cooperative efforts to control them taking place in counties throughout Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Utah.

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