The Selective Control of Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) with Low-Cost Application of a Naturally Occurring Phytotoxic Element

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2013-00196
Agency Tracking Number: 2013-00196
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2013
Solicitation Year: 2013
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.1
Solicitation Number: USDA-NIFA-SBIR-003848
Small Business Information
110 PROGRESSIVE DR, Belgrade, MT, 59714-9141
DUNS: 003270137
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Laura Smith
 (406) 388-1116
Business Contact
 Laura Smith
Title: President
Phone: (406) 388-1116
Research Institution
Westscape Nursery proposes a Phase I project to establish a solution to the problem of rapid cheatgrass infestation in the western U.S. Preliminary studies have shown the ability of a naturally occurring elemental compound used in precise formulation to totally suppress and selectively control germinating and developing cheatgrass. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS) describe cheatgrass as "the invader that won the West". This non-native, invasive grass species is present on 100 million acres in the Great Basin and Intermountain West. The BLM estimates that several thousand new acres are invaded by cheatgrass daily, with each plant producing upwards of 1,000 seeds. Cheatgrass is the principal driving force behind the epidemic wildfires occurring continually and with greater frequency across the region and is largely responsible for the perilous decline of the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem; one of the nations largest ecosystems. The ecosystem is home to some 3,000 species of birds, vertebrate, and invertebrate species all of which are dependent on the habitat and health of this rapidly declining ecosystem. Cheatgrass is also predicted to be the invasive grass species most likely to expand its range with climate change to the detriment of native rangeland and forests and is already being observed at higher elevations and latitudes. Climate change modeling data show that cheatgrass could increase its range by as much as 45% in the coming century. Losses of grazing lands, forest products, recreational opportunities, and property due to cheatgrass invasion total in the billions of dollars annually. Cheatgrass impacted lands become more susceptible to erosion, causing increased sedimentation in the regions fragile water systems. Once burned, efforts to reclaim these lands with native species are expensive and often ineffectual as cheatgrass rapidly dominates burned grasslands and forests. Herbicides are the principal strategy for controlling cheatgrass. The BLM currently sprays one million acres annually for cheatgrass in the Great Basin at an average cost of $70/acre. Herbicidal applications often eliminate native vegetation such as sagebrush, further exacerbating the cheatgrass-fire cycle. Westscape will advance this technology towards a cost-effective, ecologically sound product that will selectively suppress cheatgrass proliferation while promoting the establishment of desirable native species. The estimated cost per acre of application at this time is a fraction of traditional methods of cheatgrass control using herbicides. In Phase I, Westscape will demonstrate that: 1) this formulation will effectively suppress cheatgrass on former sagebrush-steppe lands, and 2) will do so without adverse effect on endemic native vegetation and revegetation species. In Phase II, Westscape will conduct larger-scale independent field studies with its USDA-NRCS cooperators. At the end of Phase II, Westcape will have a product that can be easily and economically used by reclamation professionals that will help suppress cheatgrass while enhancing the ability of desirable native to establish on impacted sites.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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