Bufflegrass – June 2011

(cont…) Buffelgrass is an African bunchgrass introduced by the Soil Conservation Service as early as 1938. It grows abundantly in Central and Northern Mexico. Buffelgrass has not always been considered an invasive. As with most invasives, it was brought to various landscapes for very specific reasons without proper scientific investigation as to its consequences. What was historically thought to be a grass suitable to reclaim abandoned farm land in Southern Arizona, a grass to provide forage for both cattle and wildlife in areas where the water was alkaline and the soil not suitable for farming, has become a nightmare.

Buffle grass is ubiquitous

Most people in Arizona have little if any knowledge about buffelgrass. This creates a huge stumbling block in combating a very serious invasive. Travis M. Bean and Julio L. Betancourt, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey, and The Desert Laboratory, have written extensively on their studies and extreme dangers to the continued existence of the Sonoran Desert landscape with the encroachment of buffelgrass. Arizona Native Plant Society has a very educational site dealing with the seriousness of this invasive.  Take a few minutes to watch their video which opens with a buffelgrass-wildfire scene and subsequent devastation.  http://www.aznps.com/invasives.html

Because it grows rapidly, outcompetes our native species for water and soil nutrients, and burns very rapidly at temperatures approaching 1400 ° F, it has become a grass that could lead to the demise of the Sonoran Desert vegetation we all love. Plants of the Sonoran Desert are not fire-adapted plants. Historically when fires did occur in our native desert, they were low-temperature and low flame height. Not true with a buffelgrass fire. Besides the high temperatures, the flame height and flame spread is of catastrophic proportions.

By 2004, the first major buffelgrass fire was recorded in Pima County. Several fires since have closed Interstate 10 east of Tucson. It likes disturbed areas, making the places where large numbers of new homes are being constructed a perfect habitat for spreading this invasive. It currently infests the Coronado National Forest and numbers of our National Parks and National Monuments.

I encourage each of us to educate ourselves and attack the grass now. It will soon be too late. It needs to be dug up by the roots and destroyed. If it’s green, herbicides will kill it. There are a number of buffelgrass eradication programs, including one in Phoenix. A list of active groups and available volunteer opportunities can be found at http://www.aznps.com/invasives/weedwackers.html

Get involved, get educated, and help wipe out buffelgrass.

For further reading, http://www.libertywildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Wingbeats_2007.pdf



2 Responses to Bufflegrass – June 2011

  1. Kathy Scioscia says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I will pass it on!

  2. Joyce Heath says:

    Great article, You are right, I never heard of buffelgrass. I will be more aware of it. Thanks for the info.

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