‘Old World Bluestem? new threat for native grass

by Frank J. Buchman

Special to the Free Press

Concordia rancher Gordon Morrison shows Caucasian Bluestem, generally referred to as Old World Bluestem, that has invaded his Cloud County native pastures sharply reducing stocking capacity.Some would contend this intruder is one of its own, and it truly does seem to be.

As a surprise to most unaware cattle producers, what is simply called Old World Bluestem is becoming an increasing problem, while reducing stocking capacity in pasturelands in northeast Kansas.

?Actually, Caucasian Bluestem is the non-native species that is drought tolerant and very aggressive, but lower in quality than native grasses,? said Robin Reid at the River Valley Extension District in Washington. ?Thus, cattle generally will not graze it in the pastures, causing sharp reduction in cattle gains, and markedly lowering grassland stocking capacity.

?Once Old World Bluestem gets established, it is very hard to control and can take over an entire pasture,? Reid he added.

An Old World Bluestem control program was outlined by Reid Dec. 5 at the City Hall in Miltonvale.

Walt Fick, a rangeland specialist from Kansas State University, and Dwayne Rise also a rangeland expert for the Natural Resource and Conservation Service, presented information on the difficult identification and control of this invasive grass.

One rancher who has severe problems with Old World Bluestem invading his Cloud County pastures is Gordon Morrison of Concor?dia.

?Cattle will not eat Old World Bluestem, or Silver Bluestem, which is also becoming a problem for us,? Morrison said. ?I estimate that we need 50 percent more acreage for a cow and calf to make up for the reduction in pastures feed value caused by these intruders.

?These two invading grasses should be a concern for all Kansans, but most landowners are not even aware of the problem as the intruders look so much like our good Bluestem grasses but are not succulent,? he added. ?The grasses may taste bitter to cattle, sheep, horses and goats as they definitely not being eaten.?

?In some pastures, Old World Bluestem and Silver Bluestem are by far the most prevalent grasses,? Morrison said. ?The good plants such as Big and Little Bluestems and Gramma grasses are being over grazed and grubbed into the ground, while the intruding grasses flourish, because they are not being grazed.

?These nasty grasses even push out the good Bluestems and take over quality grass areas.?

Morrison said Old World Bluestem originated in Turkey and neighboring countries.

?It is imperative that livestock people become aware of their sly enemy that is quietly invading our pasturelands,? he warned.

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