At the start of our project, the annual grass Ventenata (Ventenata dubia) was not well-known, and certainly its biology was not understood. Our challenge now is meeting the demand for workshops, as recognition and interest in managing Ventenata dubia gains prominence among farmers, ranchers, and land managers. People who participated in the pre-test had some awareness of Ventenata, with 49% having heard about it. Post-test awareness has increased to 66%. The majority of farmers and ranchers who produce alfalfa and grass hay, who have pastures, or who participate in the Conservation Reserve Program consider it a very important problem for their production. Reports from producer meetings suggest that production of grass hay is reduced by as much as 50%, grass stand life is cut in half, and foreign export of infested hay is not possible. Our post-test suggests that overall yields are 20% lower because of Ventenata, it has caused farmers to change their practices, and they are trying a diverse set of methods for control. The regional losses (Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho) are $6.7 million and ripple effects in the economy pose a $22 million negative impact. In addition to economic effects, ecosystem services appear to be impacted, with lower nest success for cavity-nesting birds within CRP. Our respondents of the post-test state that their ability to control Ventenata has not changed, except among people who were not controlling ventenata very well where we saw increases in people who had at least 50% control. We now do have additional methods for management. Farmers are adopting use of herbicides for control in timothy; previously there were no legal options available. We found that farmers have adopted recommendations for fertilization of timothy, and about half of those not using the split timing are considering adopting the technique. Our greatest challenge is convincing farmers that a 4-inch cut height for timothy (currently people cut at 2 to 3 inches) will make their timothy competitive and actually increase yield. In CRP, we see adoption of herbicide application and fertilization as well as use of mowing and herbicide application to stimulate perennial grass production. Fewer people are considering burning for control and those numbers are about 25% considering adoption with 10% adopting the technique. Our project has had considerable success in bettering the livelihoods of farmers and allowing landowners to meet the objectives of the CRP program. We will continue working towards additional solutions and adjusting our decision tool once we have user feedback.
Education EO: Involve stakeholders in production of ventenata IPM using a web-based, decision support tool (DST).
RO1: Predict ventenata seed germination and seed set using a degree-day model approach.
RO2: Define impact of ventenata within a whole-farm system nitrogen (N) budget.
RO3: Determine crop competitiveness (yield) response to alternative management strategies.
RO4: Determine impact of ventenata on ecosystem services within CRP.
Since 2004, agricultural producers, land managers, and researchers have seen increased invasion by Ventenanta dubia (Ventenata)in the Inland Northwest. Infestations have led to economic loss in the hay industry, especially to the timothy hay market. Hay cannot be exported if it contains ventenata and ventenata’s wiry form makes it is difficult to harvest by binding up machinery. Ventenata also reduces hay stand longevity. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) seeks to improve soil health and prevent erosion. The program also seeks to improve other ecological services like wildlife habitat. Increasing annual grasses with CRP reduces the benefits of perennial grasses (reduced soil erosion, wildlife habitat). Some county Farm Service Agency offices are now requiring landowners to control ventenata on CRP (Jim Knetch, Latah County Farm Service Agency, personal communication). Understanding of integrated control techniques of ventenata is needed to help managers make informed decisions. It is also imperative to understand the ecological impacts ventenata may be having on wildlife that utilize agricultural habitat. Understanding these effects and the control options for ventenata may lead to more resilient agroecosystems.
We conducted laboratory and field experiments using V. dubia populations from a 300 km latitudinal gradient that encompassed parts of eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and northern Idaho (Figure 1). note: Tables and Figures are in attached Survey Results document. Though V. dubia is present throughout a greater extent of the PNW, producer surveys (unpublished data) and road surveys indicate that V. dubia invasion impacts have been most significant in the study region. The study region includes the intermediate (30-45 cm) and high (45-60 cm) precipitation zones of the Columbia Plateau that are dominated by dryland annual cropping. At a regional scale, these annual croplands interface with forested ecosystems to the northeast and canyon grassland ecosystems to the southwest (Figure 1). At a landscape scale, variation in topography and seasonal precipitation patterns contribute to a matrix of land use types in which perennial grass systems are embedded.
In Vitro Germination Trials
In order to inform our proceeding field studies on V. dubia life-history patterns, we replicated and extended previous research conducted in 1985 by Patton, Northam, and Callihan which determined the effects of after-ripening, cold stratification, seed-aging, and temperature on V. dubia populations located in the Palouse region.
Effect of After-ripening, Cold Stratification and Seed-Aging on Germination
In the fall of 2009, we initiated studies to evaluate the effects of cold stratification and seed-aging using seed collected from a natural infestation near Pullman, WA in mid-July. We initiated a study in 2013 to evaluate after-ripening requirements using seed collected on July 9 from the same area as the 2009 collections. In each case, seed were immediately separated from plants using a hammer mill and air screen seed cleaning machine, separated into 100-count batches, and stored at 21 °C. Germination of seed that was dry-stored for 0, 30, 60, and 120 days after harvest was evaluated in 2013 to characterize after-ripening requirements. To determine the effects of cold-stratification, we compared seed that was dry-stored for 4 months and exposed to 5 °C for three durations (0, 5, or 10 days). Germination of seed dry-stored for 4, 18, 30, and 42 months was evaluated to characterize the influence of seed-aging on seed-viability and germination.
Each germination trial used similar methodology. Experimental treatments were replicated four times and arranged in a randomized complete block design, using 100 viable seeds per replicate. Seeds were placed in a 150 mm diameter petri-dish lined with Anchor® seed paper, which was kept moist with 1% bleach (6% sodium hypochlorite) solution. Seed viability was evaluated using a forcep test. Seeds that collapsed under gentle pressure were discarded to avoid use of non-germinable seed in experiments. Germination was evaluated for 70 days in growth chambers set at 18°C and 14 hours of daylight (Patton et al. 1985), and seed germination (> 2 mm radicle) was recorded every 2 to 4 days. Germinated seed were removed from the petri-dish at the time of recording.
Effect of Temperature on Germination
In November 2010, we initiated a study to evaluate germination response of V. dubia seed, which was collected and dry-stored for 4 months, to a range of constant temperatures (5.0 to 29.2 °C). The study was conducted on V. dubia seed from populations located in five different ecosystems (forest, pasture, hay, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, and rangeland) in the Intermountain PNW. In order to complete the study, three experiments were performed sequentially on a temperature gradient bar (Holt and Orcutt 1996). Each experiment included five test temperatures (EX1: 5.0, 7.8, 8.6, 9.4, 11.3 °C, EX2: 11.8, 12.2, 13.3, 15.8, 17.0 °C, EX3: 21.5, 23.3, 25.6, 27.3, 29.2 °C) that were monitored with insulated thermocouples. The experimental unit consisted of 25 V. dubia seeds placed in 40 mm petri-dishes that were filled with moistened filter paper and covered with plastic lids sealed with parafilm. Experimental units were replicated four times per temperature treatment. Test populations (n = 5) were arranged using a randomized complete block design at each test temperature across the gradient bar. Germination (> 2 mm radical visible) was recorded and seeds were removed every 2 to 4 days. Seed mortality within petri-dishes that resulted from pathogenic fungi was also recorded and similarly removed from petri-dishes at the time of recording; seeds lost to pathogenic mortality were considered to be non-germinable. Each experiment was terminated at 42 days.
For each germination experiment, cumulative germination (%) was plotted against time (d) and nonlinear regression models were fitted to the data and analyzed using a model where g is cumulative germination expressed as a percentage, d is time in number of days , C is total cumulative germination expressed as a percentage, and b0 and b1 are estimated parameters, with b0 estimating mean germination time (d to 50% germination of germinable seed) and b1 as the rate (seeds d-1) at which germination occurs. To determine if germination rates varied across a given set of treatments, we contrasted full and reduced models using the FR test statistic from the residual sums of squares reduction test in PROC NLIN (Version 9.3, SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Total cumulative germination was specified in the model for temperature experiments because seed viability was not quantified across populations, which would confound curve fitting comparisons if parameterized. For temperature experiments, total cumulative germination was analyzed separately by fitting general linear mixed models in SAS (Version 9.3, SAS Institute, Cary, NC) to examine population main effects by temperature with block as a random factor. Total cumulative germination was transformed using arcsine square-root to achieve homogeneity of variance.
Seed Bank Persistence
In October 2009, we initiated a study to evaluate the effects of burial duration and depth on V. dubia seed bank persistence. The study was conducted on a south-facing slope with Palouse and Tucannon silt loam soil at the NRCS Pullman Plant Materials Center (PPMC) near Pullman, WA, and on a west-facing slope with Spokane loam soil on Paradise Ridge south of Moscow, ID. Both sites were infested with V. dubia and receive approximately 51 cm of annual precipitation. V. dubia seeds collected in mid-July near Pullman, WA were separated in 100-count batches and after-ripened for approximately 3 months. Seed batches were placed in 10 by 10 cm nylon mesh fabric packets containing 10 cm3 of sifted soil from the PPMC study site and buried on October 16 at the Paradise Ridge site and October 20 at the PPMC site. Burial depth (2 and 8 cm) and burial duration (1, 13, 25, 37, and 49 months) treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Replicates were located in natural V. dubia infestation patches within approximately 0.015 ha of each other.
Seed packets were exhumed and seeds with visible radicles (> 2 mm) were counted as germinated. At the 1 month burial interval, non-germinated seed were subjected to a growth-chamber germination assay to determine the germinable fraction of the seed bank. Seeds were surface-sterilized using a 5% bleach solution (0.25% sodium hypochlorite) and placed on petri-dishes (150 mm) lined with Anchor® seed germination paper in a growth chamber set at 18 °C with 12 hours of fluorescent light. Germination was recorded every 3 days for 60 days. At subsequent burial intervals (13, 25, 37, and 49 mo), non-germinated seed were indiscernible from soil due to decay, eliminating the need for germination assays. Seed bank fate for each burial duration and depth was categorized as 1) germinated: seeds with visible radicles, 2) persistent: non-germinated seeds that germinated in the growth chamber, and 3) lost: seeds not found due to decay or non-germinated seed that did not germinate in the growth chamber.
The effect of seed burial depth on seed bank fate (germination, persistence, and loss) one month after burial and seed bank persistence in subsequent years were analyzed by fitting general linear mixed models to examine the main effect of burial depth by burial duration with block and site as a random factor. Seed bank fate data were arcsine square root transformed to achieve homogeneity of variance. Treatment means were separated using Fishers LSD (P < 0.05). Results are presented using untransformed treatment means.
Effects of Litter on Seedling Emergence
We conducted a garden experiment at the NRCS-Pullman Plant Materials Center (PPMC) in 2011-2012 and replicated it in 2012-2013 to evaluate the effect of V. dubia litter on V. dubia seedling emergence from an artificial seed bank. In August 2011, V. dubia plants were collected from a local population and were hand threshed. In addition, foliar cover (%) was visually estimated and V. dubia biomass (g) was collected in a random sample of 40 plots (400 cm2). Linear regression was performed to estimate V. dubia litter fresh weight (g) that correlated to 33, 66, and 100% cover. Experimental treatments consisted of 100 V. dubia seeds sown on the soil surface and four litter treatments corresponding to 0, 33, 66, and 100% V. dubia cover (0, 98, 196, 392 g m-2). In 2011, the experimental unit consisted of 0.05 m2 pot. Tilled soil was hand-sifted in the field and used to fill the pots to within 5 cm of the pot edge, allowing for placement of litter within the pot and to protect litter from being windblown. Due to poor drainage within the pots following snow melt in late winter, wooden plot frames were used in replacement of pots in the 2012-2013 experiment.
The experiment was conducted with a 4 × 4 factorial treatment design arranged in a randomized complete block with four replications. Treatment levels included four litter levels (0, 98, 196, 392 g m-2) and four harvest dates. Three harvests were scheduled approximately two weeks apart following germination in the fall growing season, and one harvest was scheduled for the spring growing season. Separate harvest dates allowed for destructive sampling of pots or frames to quantify seedling densities below the litter layer. Soil moisture (% VWC) and soil temperature (°C) at a 2 cm depth (5TM Soil Probe; Decagon Devices®) were monitored for 0, 98, and 392 g m-2 litter treatments during both years of the study in an extra litter treatment replicate that was located between experimental blocks. In the 2011-2012 experiment, final densities in several 196 and 392 g m-2 litter treatments exceeded 100 plants, raising concerns about seed contamination from the threshed litter. In 2012-2013, we included check plots with no sown seeds for each litter treatment. Litter treatments were rescaled (23, 44, 64% for 98, 196, 392 g m-2, respectively) in both years to provide estimates of litter treatment effects for comparisons to the litter control. V. dubia seedling density was quantified at each fall harvest date. Plant density, tillers per plant, and per capita seed production were quantified at the spring harvest date.
The effect of litter level (g m-2) on seedling emergence was analyzed by fitting general linear mixed models to examine the main effect of litter level by harvest date and year with block as a random factor. The effect of litter levels on plant density, tillers per plant, seed production were subjected to analysis of variance for 2012-2013 only due poor drainage in 2011-2012. Data were natural log transformed to achieve homogeneity of variance. Treatment means were separated using Fishers LSD (P < 0.05). Results are presented using untransformed treatment means.
Seedling Emergence and Phenological Development Patterns
We monitored V. dubia seedling emergence and phenological development in field plots through the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 growing seasons at six sites within the Intermountain PNW (Table 1; Figure 1). Four sites were replicated across years. Two sites were relocated in the second growing season due to resource constraints (Table 1). In each year, however, two sites were located in timothy-hay, CRP, and rangeland. We established monitoring plots at each site within natural infestations of V. dubia. Ten plots (400 cm2) were permanently marked at 0.5 m intervals along a 6 m transect. A weather station was also established on the transect and a data logger (EM50; Decagon Devices®) was used to take hourly measurements of precipitation (ECH2O; Decagon Devices®) and ambient air temperature 1.33 m above the soil surface (ECH2O-ECT; decagon Devices®). Soil moisture (%vwc) and soil temperature (°C) were recorded with two 5TM soil moisture probes (Decagon Devices®) that were installed at a 2.5 cm soil depth and positioned upslope and downslope of the transect. Data were collected hourly and periodically downloaded at the site to be entered into a database and quality control checked using the nearest regional weather station prior to use for data analysis.
Field plots were established each year by early- to mid-September prior to the first fall precipitation and visited weekly to bi-weekly during the fall growing season and approximately bi-weekly during the spring growing season. V. dubia seedling emergence was quantified and then plants were removed with glyphosate at a 5% v/v spray solution in spray bottle. The most advanced growth stage of emerged V. dubia plants was recorded using the methods of Moore et al. (1991) in quadrats (400 cm2) positioned on the opposite side of the transect in relation to permanent plots used for monitoring seedling emergence. Moore et al. (1991) describe a comprehensive system for quantifying the phenological development of perennial forage and range grasses using a continuous numerical index which can be used to develop quantitative relationships. This system concentrates on transitions from five primary growth stages of individual grass shoots (germination, vegetative, elongation, reproductive, and seed ripening) and can be utilized for monitoring annual grass phenology. We confined our growth stage observations from the fall vegetative stage of V. dubia seedlings to the hard dough seed ripening stage.
We calculated cumulated growing degree days for each site and year using a model where daily maximum and minimum temperatures (°C) were measured at a 2.5 cm soil depth averaged over the two soil probes, and base temperature was 7 °C. The base temperature was derived from our experiments on temperature (5 to 29 °C ) on V. dubia germination described in detail in the proceeding results section; germination of V. dubia seed did not occur below a test temperature of 8.6 °C. Preliminary germination trials did not identify an upper temperature threshold. Consequently, an upper threshold of downy brome (30 °C) was utilized.
Cumulative seedling emergence (%) was plotted against cumulative growing degree days (GDD) and non-linear models were fitted to the data for each site by year and analyzed using a nonlinear regression model where E is relative cumulative germination expressed as a percentage, GDD is cumulative growing degree days  , C is a constant value of 1, and b0 and b1 are estimated parameters, with b0 estimating mean seedling emergence time (d to 50% of total seedling emergence per year) and b1 estimating the relative slope around the inflection point. Cumulative germination was numerically transformed to a scale of 0 to 100% by dividing cumulative germination by the total number of seedlings emerged over the entire growing season for a given population. As a result, cumulative germination percentages were adjusted to a common scale for comparison of seedling emergence rates among populations. Calculation of cumulative GDD began after measured soil volume water content (%VWC) was greater than the estimated permanent wilting point (PWP) for silt loam soils (11%) using the relationship between soil %VWC, water potential, and soil texture described in Saxton and Rawls (2006). Seedling emergence patterns among perennial grass systems (hay, CRP, rangeland), pooled across sites within system, were compared using the residual sums of squares reduction test for each year of the study.
We compared the effect of perennial grass system on the cumulative GDDs and Julian days at which stem elongation and anthesis occurred. Transitions to stem elongation and anthesis stages were identified as the cumulative GDD and Julian days at the mid-point between bi-weekly sampling periods at which the given transition occurred. Cumulative GDDs were started on the date at which seedling emergence first occurred in the fall for each adjacent seedling emergence plot. Stem elongation and anthesis transitions were subjected to analysis of variance using a mixed model with study system, pooled across sites, as a main effect and year as a random effect. Data were natural log transformed to achieve homogeneity of variance. Treatment means were separated using Fishers LSD (P < 0.05). Results are presented using untransformed treatment means.
IPM for Ventenata
Field experiments were conducted from 2012 to 2013 on four study sites in northeastern Washington and north central Idaho. Field sites were selected upon similar soil characteristics, aspect, and management objectives to enhance trial replication. All sites have been in agricultural production for at least five years. Both hay sites were near Cusick, WA (477539 N 5348457 E); the north timothy site was 0.34 km from the south timothy site. Soils at these sites were comprised of Cusick silty clay loam series which were moderately deep and poorly drained. Slopes were 0 to 3%. Average annual precipitation was 69 cm (Deer Park station; 40 km from field site). The timothy hay sites were predominately timothy (Phleum pratense L.), ventenata, meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis L.), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), and Canada thistle [Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.].
The two CRP sites were located near Troy, ID. The south CRP site (5175159 N 520960 E) was approximately 4.3 km from the north CRP site (5178763 N 523363 E). Those sites were primarily comprised of Taney and Southwick silt loam series, which are moderately deep and well drained. Slopes ranged from 0 to 25%. Average annual precipitation was 59 cm (Moscow station; 20 km from field sites). Frequent plant species within these sites include ventenata, orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), Japanese brome (Bromus japonicas Thunb. Ex Murr.), meadow foxtail, and autumn willowherb (Epilobium brachycarpum), all of which are 75% of the total plant composition.
The experimental design was a randomized complete block split-plot design. The perennial vegetation removal or nutrient addition treatments (mowing, burning, and fertilizing) were applied to the whole plot and the ventenata removal treatment (herbicide) was applied randomly as the split-plot within the whole plot. Each block was placed within each field where soil and plant communities were similar (Gotelli and Ellison 2004). We evaluated treatments within two infestation levels low (<25% foliar cover) and high (> 50% foliar cover), hereafter referred to low and high respectively. Each set of treatments was replicated three times within the field and repeated at another site in each system. Duration of the experiment spanned the fall of 2012 through the spring of 2013, with data collected before treatment in the summer of 2012 and data collected after treatments were applied at the peak of forage production during the summer of 2013.
Foliar cover and biomass were the two variables used to evaluate ventenata control and perennial vegetation response to treatments. All data were collected along permanent transectswithin the center of each treatment. Percent foliar cover estimates were determined by using the line-point intercept method (Herrick et al. 2005). Plants were recorded by species at each point along the transect and biomass samples were collected within a 25 cm by 50 cm frame (0.125 m2) for each treatment.
Biomass samples were split into two equal parts. One part was then sorted into ventenata biomass and forage biomass (all desirable vegetation) and the other half of the sample was left combined. All biomass samples were then oven-dried at 60 C for 72 hours and subsequently weighed with a digital scale to the nearest hundredth gram. The mass of the combined samples were weighted and applied to the ventenata and foliage samples to result in a final mass.
Our treatments included 5 cm harvest height, 10 cm harvest height, and 5 cm harvest height with light post-harvest grazing (Fransen 2005). We applied the following treatments to each of those management strategies: fertilize only, fall-applied herbicide only, fertilize with herbicide, and a control treatment (Table 2) within the two infestation levels of ventenata. The differing timothy harvest heights allowed us to contrast hay production at the different heights in conjunction with fertilization and herbicide application. Fransen (2005) suggests that harvesting timothy at a minimum 10 cm harvest height will increase the plant’s ability to better compete through increased storage capability of carbohydrates. Each plot measured 4.9 m by 6 m. Foliar cover estimates were based off of one meter increments and one biomass sample was collected within each plot.
We used the herbicides flufenacet plus metribuzin1 (Axiom® DF) which may soon be labeled for ventenata control in timothy. We applied flufenacet plus metribuzin to the timothy plots at a rate of 0.58 L ai ha-1, based on prior research (Wallace and Prather 2010). The fertilizer amendments were applied as a split application in the fall and spring using recommendations provided by Shewmaker and Bohle (2010) and Mahler (2005a and 2005b). Soil samples were taken to a depth of 30 cm two weeks prior to fertilizer applications to determine recommended rates (Table 1). The selected fertilizer analysis (46-62-45) was applied in the form of a dry granular with phosphorus3 and potassium4 applied in the fall. Nitrogen5 was applied as a split application to the timothy sites as 11.3 kg in the fall and 11.3 kg in the spring. The fertilize treatment was to help promote perennial vegetation carbohydrate storage and increase next season growth by increasing plant competitiveness (Fransen 2005).
Treatments were selected from currently approved cost-share mid-contract management treatments outlined by the NRCS and the FSA (NRCS 2009; NRCS 2013). The following treatments were selected: fall burn, spring burn, sickle mow and remove, rotary mow, fertilize, and herbicide (Table 2). These treatments are common management techniques employed in north central Idaho. Each plot measured 5 m by 5 m. Foliar cover estimates were based off of half meter increments along the permanent transect. Two biomass samples were collected within each plot on alternate sides of the transect; collected one meter away from the transect.
Fall herbicide applications included the use of sulfosulfuron2 (Outrider®) 21.3 g ai ha-1 on the CRP sites. Previously we found that sulfosulfuron can achieve up to 100% control of ventenata nine months after treatment at a rate of 21.3 g ai ha-1. Fertilizer amendments were based on the same analyses used in the timothy experiments. Phosphorus and potassium rates were calculated using the 30 cm soil sample results. The CRP trials received 11.3 kg nitrogen in the fall but not in the spring. Prescribed burning, whether fall or spring, can restore and rejuvenate native ecosystem processes within grasslands. Prescribed burning within this project was used to achieve three goals 1) remove leaf litter, 2) stimulate perennial grasses and 3) provide nutrients to the soil (DiTomaso 2000; Masters and Sheley 2001). Fall burning may have the additional impact of increasing herbicide to soil contact and subjecting any emerged ventenata seedlings to frost injury. Whereas, spring burning was used to remove all vegetation in spring which would subject seedlings to frost injury. Sickle mow and remove was used to reduce standing vegetation and remove most of the litter, which would allow for greater herbicide to soil contact. The rotary mow treatment left vegetation within the plot which could increase litter and promote ventenata survival.
Our research with plant phenology and seed biology yielded a partial explanation of invasion success. Patterns of V. dubia seedling emergence observed across a 300 km gradient and several perennial grass systems were similar, primarily differing in the proportion of total seedling emergence that occurred in the spring growing season. Late summer precipitation is normally too episodic to maintain soil moisture above the permanent wilting point for any length of time within the Intermountain PNW. Consequently, it is likely that V. dubia populations from different perennial grass systems across the region were exposed to similar dry after-ripening conditions that differ only in temperature. Similar environmental conditions during dormancy breakdown may, in part, explain the similar patterns of initial (1%) and mean (50%) seedling emergence among habitat types. Mean seedling emergence (50% of total emergence) ranged from 33 to 94 GDDs across sites and years. The soil moisture level corresponding to the permanent wilting point (11% VWC in silt loams) was a useful threshold for predicting V. dubia seedling emergence as a function of growing degree days.
Post-hoc analysis suggests that soil temperature and moisture patterns can explain, in part, variation in spring seedling emergence. We observed minimal seedling emergence during the spring in CRP lands and comparatively higher levels of seedling emergence during spring in both rangeland and timothy hay systems. Rangeland systems are more likely to maintain higher soil temperatures and receive episodic fall precipitation, resulting in periods of low soil moisture relative to hay and CRP systems (Figure 5). Such conditions likely contributed to variable patterns of seedling emergence we observed from year to year, in which spring seedling recruitment was proportionally higher in 2011-2012 when precipitation was comparatively lower. Within hay systems at more northerly latitudes, soil temperatures decline more rapidly in the fall and increase more slowly in the spring (Figure 5). Consequently, it is more likely that soil temperatures will be suboptimal (< 7 °C) for germination after adequate soil moisture occurs in the fall, which may result in a greater proportion of spring seedling recruits that were induced into secondary dormancy.
Plant development patterns provided several explanations for why V. dubia populations are increasing across perennial grass systems within the Intermountain PNW. In general, V. dubia plants remained in the vegetative growth stage at the two- to three-leaf stage (shedding older leaves) throughout the spring with little to no increases in biomass and did not transition to the stem elongation phase until mid-May. Within the Intermountain PNW, pasture-based livestock operations often utilize rangeland sites within canyon grasslands between early-May and Mid-June before moving livestock to summer pasture. Observed trends suggest that beyond palatability differences, V. dubia would be minimally grazed in canyon grasslands in comparison to B. tectorum due to its vegetative growth habit and developmental rate during spring grazing season. V. dubia anthesis occurred in mid June and, with few exceptions, produced mature seed by early July. Hay harvest within the Intermountain PNW routinely occurs at the beginning of July and therefore likely contains mature V. dubia seed in hay bales that is then distributed at local to regional scales. Predictive models of phenological development transitions generated from our studies may improve the performance of several cultural control strategies. For example, local producers have attempted to mow large monoculture patches of V. dubia prior to seed set in order to decrease seed production in the following growing season, and hay producers have opted to harvest hay for silage prior to V. dubia seed production to manage infestations.
Research sites were located within the three-state region of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The research will become the basis for a decision tool that will be delivered and downloadable from the website Idaho Weed Resources. Our work on the biology of Ventenata dubia demonstrated that seed life tends to be short, with most seeds gone in 18 months. But a tenth of a percent survived two years at one location. Seedling survival is enhanced when high levels of litter are present, suggesting litter management may become part of the final IPM approach. The herbicides LandMark, Outrider, Axiom, and Plateau/Panoramic all have activity with labeled use in at least one system that we are studying, with the exception of Axiom. The herbicides allow us to integrate with cultural tools to enhance economic viability and reduce the impact of ventenata. Within CRP we have found that a fall or spring burn decreases ventenata when compared to the control and, when combined with the herbicide Outrider, most ventenata was removed. In timothy hay we found that a harvest height of four inches improved competitiveness of timothy. When combined with the herbicide Axiom, we had very good control.
In depth interviews with farmers dealing with ventenata yielded the following summary of impacts from Ventenata.
In terms of how ventenata affects their hay and pasture ground, the following comments were made:
• The stand life for hay (brome, timothy, bluegrass) is reduced, up to a 50% reduction in length, like 4-5 years instead of 8-10.
• Ventenata is quite bad in the bunchgrass pasture, maybe a 50% to 75% reduction, much worse than in seeded pasture.
• Ventenata grows better in wetter areas.
• Typically, pasture is not treated because it would be hard on the grass and it’s too expensive.
• If you hay it every year it’s worse, compared to some grazing.
Solutions for managing Ventenata
We have demonstrated that Ventenata can be controlled in timothy hay, CRP, and pasture management. We can improve hay value by as much as $190 per ton, allowing farmers to receive over $250 per ton versus $70 per ton. In addition to higher value, the per acre production may be as much as twice as high for the farmer who successfully reduces Ventenata in hay.
Adoption of techniques
With respect to additional outcomes, we found that landowners and farmers who attended our workshops were more likely to have adopted our techniques (43%) than those who did not attend a workshop (17%). Actively managing Ventenata with use of a registered herbicide along with fertillization has been adopted by 80% and those using grazing practices to keep their forages competitive along with application of an herbicide was 67% when compared to those who did not attend a workshop (40%).
Our current diagram of a decision tool is implemented through powerpoint presentations during workshops. Our self-directed and downloadable decision tool will be available for use prior to the 2015 growing season. We anticipate the electronic downloadable version will continue to increase adoption of practices that reduce the impact of Ventenata as evidenced by the higher adoption rates of people who have attended workshops.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Tim Prather. June 2014 Ventenata in Control of Problem Weeds, Pacific Northwest Weed Management Handbook.
John Wallace, Pamela Pavek and Timothy Prather. 2014. Ecology of Ventenata dubia: ecological characteristics of Ventenata dubia in the Intermountan Pacific Northwest. Invasive Plant Science and Management (accepted)
Andrew Mackey. 2013. Developing a decision support tool for Ventenata (Ventenata dubia) integrated pest management in the inland Northwest. M.S. Thesis, University of Idaho, 63 pp.
Reports from producer meetings suggest that production of grass hay is reduced by as much as 50%, grass stand life is cut in half, and foreign export of infested hay is not possible. Our post-test suggests that overall, yields are 20% lower because of ventenata and it has caused farmers to change their practices and they are trying a diverse set of methods for control. The regional losses (Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho) are $6.7 million and ripple effects in the economy pose a $22 million negative impact. Our post-survey suggests that costs are over $10/acre for management of Ventenata. A total of 43% of farmers have changed their practices to improve management of Ventenata.
Timothy for export cannot contain any ventenata, so this weed is a serious problem for this important crop. Prowl is not specifically labeled for timothy, just for alfalfa/grass mixtures. Timothy grass seeding rate needs to be increased to 10 – 12 lb/acre, which is about five times the normal NRCS recommended seeding rate for timothy.
A Latah County grower gave one extreme example of damage to a new timothy seeding. Ventenata and wind grasses took over more than 50% of the crop as it was planted a little too early. That 60 acres of hay sold for just $35 per ton. The highest quality timothy hay, export quality, typically sells for $220 or $230 per ton. Feeder quality timothy might sell for $55 to $85 per ton. Stands with weed pressure require more management as the field has to be baled selectively to exclude the contaminated hay. When the stand is too contaminated to be profitable, growers like to rotate the ground into barley and triticale for two years in order to get rid of the ventenata.
Costs of production for producing cattle in a cow-calf arrangement in northern Idaho are documented in the University of Idaho’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology 2010 publication EBB-CC1-10 250-Head Cow Calf Budget, Summer on Private Range. According to this budget, which is typical of a northern Idaho cow-calf operation, 477.58 tons of alfalfa/grass hay are required per year. Assuming a modest 10% increase in consumption of alfalfa/grass hay per head at $90 per ton, feed costs rise about $17.18 per head. Obviously there are other ways to adjust for a decrease in carrying capacity from the range, and the change in carrying capacity will vary by region, depending on the level of infestation. However, this level of detail is not currently available and would require an in-depth survey of infestation and its impacts on costs of raising livestock in this region.
A large Latah County cattle producer complained that ventenata has caused a 50% reduction in AUMs on the large Park Ranch he manages near Helmer, ID. He feels that the de-listing of wolves from the Endangered Species Act has been responsible for the encroachment of elk on his pasture, who graze and trample the grass, which encourages the spread of ventenata. He says he can’t get onto the ground early enough to effectively control the ventenata. He has re-seeded some ground to oats, spraying Roundup before and after for weed control, but three years later the ventenata returned. In addition, CRP fields near his ranch are full of ventenata, which he feels has been partially responsible for its increase on his ranch.
Awareness and identification of Ventenata has increased since the previous survey. About one out of five producers who did not see Ventenata in their county at the time of the initial survey indicated that they have seen it in the follow up survey. One third of producers who had not heard of Ventenata at the time of the initial survey indicated that they had heard of the weed in the follow up survey. Approximately two out of three respondents has heard of Ventenata. Also more than half of producers had seen Ventenata growing in their county. Consistent with other data and the previous survey, most occurrences of the weed were reported in pasture, non-crop areas, hay, and conservation reserve program (CRP) acres, although the proportion of those who have seen or heard of Ventenata in each of these area is smaller than in the previous survey. Four out of ten producers who did not have Ventenata growing on their property at the time of the initial survey now have the weed. About 43 percent of producers have since altered their management practices due to Ventenata. We also found that many producers who achieved high level of control have not been able to maintain it. Although many producers who were at 50% or less are increasing their percentage of control. These results suggest that Ventenata is continuing to affect more producers, which may explain why levels of concern around the weed remain high, and why most producers view Ventenata control as ‘very important’. This is also indicative of the increase in use of Extension materials from 13 percent in the initial survey to 28 percent in the follow up survey.
In the initial survey, producers were mostly using herbicides and mowing, followed by cultivation to control Ventenata. Our results show a similar tendency. For grass hay most producers are using an herbicide (84 percent). In CRP producers are using herbicide in addition to mowing (55 percent) or fertilization (54 percent). In pasture producers are rotating cattle after 50% of the forage has been removed (75 percent) or using an herbicide along with fertilization (63 percent) or rotating livestock (48 percent).
Ventenata management practices were distributed to producers through workshops or field days. Seventeen percent of respondents were able to attend. In grass hay management, those who had attended workshops were more likely to harvest Timothy Hay at 4 inches to make it more competitive (43 percent) than those who did not attend a workshop (17 percent). Producers who attended a workshop or field day (97 percent) are also more likely than those who did not attend to apply an effective herbicide when one is registered (77 percent).
Statistically significant differences also emerged with CRP management between those who attended the workshop and those who did not attend. Those who attended were more likely to adopt the practice of spraying an herbicide and fertilizing to make other grasses more competitive (27 percent) than those who did not (7 percent). In the same way those who attended a workshop (92 percent) were more likely to than those who did not (41 percent) to consider mowing to rejuvenate stand and spraying an herbicide.
In terms of Ventenata management in pasture, producers who had attended a workshop were more likely to adopt spraying an herbicide and fertilizing to make grasses more competitive (80 percent), and spraying an herbicide along with livestock rotation when 50% of forage has been eaten (67 percent) than those who did not attend a workshop (55 percent and 40 percent respectively).
While management practices were significantly affected by workshop attendance, no statistically significant differences were detected in percent control between those who had attended or not attended a workshop. In the same way no statistically significant differences emerged in percent control between management practices.
Areas needing additional study
Additional study is needed to understand the relationship Ventenata has with endophytic fungi. These fungi may facilitate invasion success by Ventenata and so we need to determine how to adjust management to reduce the impact of that mutualistic relationship. We also must continue research on impacts to crop production and to wildlife.
In addition, we need to set up longer term demonstrations in timothy hay to show benefits to cutting hay at 4 inches. Adjusting harvest height was already starting to have an impact after just one year in our studies. Extending a demonstration for several years should really show a difference in forage production and reduction in ventenata.