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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Issue: March/June 2002
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Northern PlainFacts.Northern PlainFacts image extension.

Issue: March/June 2002

The Northern PlainFacts from the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Montana, offers brief updates on research, personnel and events at the lab, and includes contact names and e-mail addresses for those interested in further details.


In This Month's Issue:


New Entomologist Joins NPARL Staff

New Acoustic Detection System Being Studied

Entomologist Speaks at Saltcedar Field Day

TEAM Leafy Spurge Researchers Deliver GIS Data

Mormon Cricket Study Captures Media Interest

Project Studies Grasshopper-Attacking Fungus

Papers On Insect Ecology / Evolution Published

Wyoming Grasshopper Workshop Includes NPARL Reps

NPARL Microbiologist Gives Seminar at MSU-Bozeman

Ecologist Speaks At Invasive Species Conference

Spurge Information Resource Centers Popular Items

NPARL Technician Teaches Weed ID Classes

Insect Pathologist Participates In Video Project

NPARL Reaching Out To A New Generation

Science Students Learn About Polymers / Soils

NPARL Participates In Marketplace For Kids Event





In mid-April, Dr. David Kazmer joined the scientific staff of NPARL's Pest Management Research Unit. Dr. Kazmer, a Research Entomologist, comes to Sidney from the University of Wyoming – Laramie, where he was a professor in the Department of Renewable Resources with duties including teaching, research and outreach/extension. His research efforts at Laramie included studies on the biological control of noxious weeds including saltcedar, leafy spurge, toadflax and Russian knapweed. Dr. Kazmer was already familiar with NPARL through his participation in the USDA-ARS TEAM Leafy Spurge area-wide, IPM program headquartered at the Sidney lab. Kazmer obtained his doctorate degree in entomology from the University of California–Riverside. At NPARL he will be studying biological control of weeds, continuing his existing research into saltcedar, leafy spurge and Russian knapweed, and adding biocontrol studies on other knapweeds and field bindweed.

(Dave Kazmer, 406-433-9440, dkazmer[at]


NPARL Biological Science Technician Deb Waters met with Dr. David Weaver at Montana State University-Bozeman on May 8-9 to evaluate a new acoustic system with vibration sensors for its potential use in detecting wheat stem sawfly larvae (Cephus cinctus Norton) while they're still inside the stems. Waters works with NPARL Entomologist Dr. Tom Shanower investigating the biological control of wheat stem sawfly. Under the acoustic system, sensors are placed on the stem at the base of the plant to detect larval sounds and movement inside the stem. The insect sounds are distinguished from background noise by differences in frequency. Waters hopes the system can be used as a monitoring device for nondestructive detection of wheat stem sawfly infestations in laboratory experiments. While the device is most suitable for use in laboratory situations, researchers hope that it may some day have application in field environments as well. Currently, hidden insect infestations – in which the insects live inside the plant – are difficult to detect and monitor without time-consuming visual searches for damaged vegetation and/or destruction of the plant to uncover the pest.

(Deb Waters, 406-433-9491, dwaters[at]

(Tom Shanower, 406-433-9405, tshanowe[at]


Research Entomologist Dave Kazmer spoke a Saltcedar Field Day June 21 at Fairview, MT discussing "Saltcedar Identification, Biology and Growth Cycle." The event was sponsored by the North Dakota State University and Montana State University Extension Services along with the Lower Yellowstone/Missouri Saltcedar Task Force, the Montana Weed Control Group and BASF Corporation. The workshop was intended to help landowners and land managers deal with the problem of saltcedar in the Lower Yellowstone / Upper Missouri region. Additional presentations included an overview of the noxious weed's status in North Dakota, current herbicide controls and an equipment demonstration. Saltcedar, or Tamarisk, is an aggressive Eurasian shrub which was originally used for erosion control and as an ornamental but which has since invaded thousands of acres in the Western US. It has been designated one of the 10 worst weeds in the United States.

(Dave Kazmer, 406-433-9440, dkazmer[at]


GIS researchers with USDA-ARS TEAM Leafy Spurge have delivered a four-CD set of geographic information system data compiled over the past five years to all County Weed Board Offices in the TLS project area, as well as additional copies to the Forest Service, BLM, Park Service and other cooperating partners. The CDs are intended for use in base mapping efforts by Team Leafy Spurge, a five year, Area-Wide Research and Demonstration project funded by USDA-ARS and managed cooperatively with USDA-APHIS. Data on the CDs cover 13 counties within the Little Missouri River Watershed in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming - the area targeted by the TEAM Leafy Spurge project - and was compiled with the aid of GIS lab personnel at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and students and faculty with the Geography Department of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Heading up the project for the Park was GIS Specialist Steve Hager, principal investigator and coordinator for the GIS component of the TEAM Leafy Spurge project. The CDs contain information related to transportation networks, streams, soils, federal boundaries, public land survey sections, wetlands, land use, digital elevation and elevation contours. Files on the CD can be imported into various GIS software programs such as ARC/INFO, ArcGIS Desktop and ArcView, among others. The CDs are intended for use in mapping leafy spurge infestations and planning and tracking insect releases and contain the latest information available through September 2001. Plans call for the CD data to be posted on the State of North Dakota's Online Spatial Data Clearinghouse website (, where it is expected to be available to the public for free download in the summer of 2002.


A plan by Research Ecologist Greg Sword to use a combination of radio telemetry and harmonic radar to track the movement of migratory Mormon cricket bands in and around Dinosaur National Monument this summer is attracting a lot of media attention. The work of Dr. Sword and his collaborators from the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Drs. Darryl Gwynne and Pat Lorch, is featured on the Nature Science Update website under the title "Radio Tracks Crickets: Tiny transmitters will monitor crickets' devastating swarm." The article can be viewed at 21.html. Nature Science Update is an online round-up of what's new in science research by the Nature News Service, the science syndication arm of the Nature Publishing Group, which publishes the weekly "Nature" science journal. As a result of interest generated by the Nature web article, the research effort will also be featured on a South African radio show. Aki Anastasiou of 702 Talk Radio in Johannesburg recently interviewed Sword for a segment of his weekly talk show "Techno Byte." The objective of the collaborative research project is to discover the environmental cues that determine the direction, speed and distance of Mormon cricket migratory band movements. The information gathered will be used to develop predictive models of Mormon cricket migration that can help to identify areas in danger of Mormon cricket invasion and fine-tune Mormon cricket control operations.

(Gregory Sword, 406-433-9429, gsword[at]


Insect Pathologist Dr. Stefan Jaronski is collaborating this Summer with Dr. Jeff Lockwood and his staff at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, in a large scale evaluation of a commercially produced, insect-attacking fungus (Beauveria bassiana Strain GHA) to control grasshopper populations. Previously Dr. Lockwood identified the attractiveness of canola oil to grasshoppers; this past Winter Jaronski verified its potential to increase the effectiveness of the Beauveria fungus in greenhouse tests. They are coupling the fungus, Beauveria bassiana Strain GHA, with a canola oil carrier and strip treatment (Reduced Application Area Treatment System, or RAATS), to determine whether the fungus-canola oil can be effective under field conditions and, if so, to what extent can the use rates of the fungus be reduced. Both aerial and ground applications are planned for the 560-acre test. If results are positive, an affordable biological treatment to manage grasshopper populations may be possible. Currently, land managers have only chemical insecticide-based materials for use on rangeland.

(Stefan Jaronski, 406-433-9486, sjaronski[at]


NPARL Ecologist Gregory Sword has recently had two papers accepted for publication. The first was featured with a cover photograph in the April 25 edition of Evolution and is entitled, "The importance of the ontogenetic niche in resource-associated divergence: Evidence from a generalist grasshopper." Sword is a coauthor on the paper with Erik B. Dopman and David M. Mills. The article reports on studies using populations of the grasshopper, Schistocerca emarginata, in which the juveniles of the species are dietary specialists, despite the adults being generalist feeders. DNA sequence data demonstrated that juveniles from populations specializing on different plants were genetically-distinct, host plant-associated lineages, something not previously shown with grasshoppers. Ultimately, this study suggests that previously overlooked patterns of host plant use by juveniles can have substantial impacts on the ecology and evolution of insects. Recognizing these patterns may lead to the identification of specific ecological interactions that can be manipulated as a part of a management strategy. Sword's second article accepted for publication in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, is entitled, "A role for phenotypic plasticity in the evolution of aposematism." The evolution of warning coloration (aposematism) is a long-standing mystery that has puzzled biologists dating back to Charles Darwin. Sword's study indicates that an adaptive intermediate stage may exist during evolutionary transitions from cryptic coloration to bright and conspicuous warning patterns. In his article, Sword demonstrates that the ability to change color and express density-dependent warning coloration has evolved differently between closely related palatable and unpalatable Schistocerca emarginata grasshopper populations. This, in turn, suggests that an insect's ability to change color due to its population density can evolve in response to the relative costs and benefits of being conspicuous to predators. Sword's study was based on grasshopper populations in Texas as well as the desert locust in Africa.

(Gregory Sword, 406-433-9429, gsword[at]


Drs. David Branson and Greg Sword, Research Entomologist and Research Ecologist, respectively, spoke at the Wyoming Department of Agriculture's Spring Workshop for county weed and pest supervisors and Extension agents March 25-26 in Thermopolis, WY. They discussed their ongoing research as part of the "Grasshopper Workshop." Dr. Sword spoke on "Mormon Crickets: A Model for Intervention," while Dr. Branson discussed "Grazing Management: More Grass, Fewer Grasshoppers." Both also participated in additional workshop discussions, providing an overview of NPARL's overall grasshopper research and a brief presentation of the pathology work of Dr. Stefan Jaronski, another NPARL grasshopper researcher who was unable to make the trip.

(Dave Branson, 406-433-9406, dbranson[at]

(Stefan Jaronski, 406-433-9486, sjaronski[at]

(Gregory Sword, 406-433-9429, gsword[at]


Research Microbiologist TheCan Caesar was invited to give a seminar on her work for the Department of Microbiology at Montana State University – Bozeman on April 26. In her talk, entitled "Basidiomycetes as Indicators of Soil Quality," Dr. Caesar discussed her research on basidiomycete fungi and its ability to increase soil aggregation and stabilization in dryland agricultural systems. Dr. Caesar has already developed a method for detecting the presence of the fungi in soil and is currently testing six granular formulations developed by Research Chemists William Connick and Don Daigle (USDA-ARS Southern Regional Research Center, Commodity Utilization Research Unit) for commercially applying the basidiomycete fungi. The different formulations being tested by Dr. Caesar use varying substrates, including a number of agricultural waste products such as bagasse, a sugar cane residue, and corn cob grits to deliver the fungi. Caesar is testing how well the beneficial basidiomycete fungi establish under each formulation and how efficiently they aggregate soil and produce lignin-decomposing enzymes.

(TheCan Caesar, 406-433-9415, caesart[at]


NPARL Research Ecologist and USDA, ARS TEAM Leafy Spurge Program Director Dr. Gerry Anderson spoke at the 2002 National Resources Management Training Session for Invasive Species held April 22-23 in Denver, CO. Dr. Anderson's presentation, Involving the Community in the Control of Invasive Species, discussed how to effectively involve the larger community in the prevention and control of invasive species, and examined a successful program that did just that - TEAM Leafy Spurge. The TEAM Leafy Spurge program is a five-year, area-wide IPM research and demonstration project funded by ARS and dedicated to collaboration in order to achieve the ultimate objective of controlling leafy. The other specialized training sessions offered at the two-day event included information on new regulations and legislation on invasive species; improved detection efforts, and successful control measures. The training sessions were presented by the Environmental Performance Institute and were intended for natural resource program managers with both public and private agencies and businesses at all levels. Keynote speaker for the event was Ms. Lori Williams, executive director of the National Invasive Species Council.

(Gerry Anderson, 406-433-9416, ganderson[at]


TEAM Leafy Spurge has distributed more than 1,800 Information Resource Center sets to Extension Agents, Weed Supervisors and other interested parties across a seven-state region. The Information Resource Centers are three-ring binders sporting a collection of informational and educational resources about biological control and the Integrated Pest Management of leafy spurge. Also receiving binders were municipal weed supervisors in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada, and the following federal and state agencies: Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Indian Affairs; U.S. Forest Service; National Park Service; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Fish and Wildlife Service (North Dakota); Department of Transportation (North Dakota) and Parks and Recreation Department (North Dakota). Included in the binders are numerous CD-ROMs, brochures, manuals and reports developed by TEAM Leafy Spurge and aimed at helping public and private land managers combat leafy spurge. Among the CDs are the latest update of the popular Purge Spurge: Leafy Spurge Database and Biological Control of Leafy Spurge, the first in a series of CDs highlighting different IPM techniques for leafy spurge control. Additional materials in that IPM series – including CDs and manuals on herbicides and multi-species grazing – as well as other items currently being developed by TLS, will be mailed to binder recipients as they become available. Although the binders themselves are no longer available, many of the materials contained in them are by contacting TEAM Leafy Spurge at 406-433-9427 (ask for Jill or Beth); by e-mail at teamls[at], or by writing to NPARL, Box 463, Sidney, MT 59270. TEAM Leafy Spurge is a five-year research and demonstration project funded by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in cooperation with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and headquartered at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney.


Biological Science Technician Kimberly Mann is conducted two weed identification classes May 30 and June 6 in Glasgow and Plentywood, MT, respectively. The classes are part of two, daylong, weed workshops being coordinated by county weed officials in the region. This is the fourth year Mann has been invited to participate in these regional training events. On May 30, Mann was in Glasgow to train weed crews from four Montana counties in noxious weed identification. On June 6th, she conducted a similar training session in Plentywood for area farmers and ranchers. In addition to Mann's presentation, participants at both workshops received training in pesticide safety, application techniques and more from a variety of presenters.

(Kim Mann, 406-433-9428, mannk[at]


The sugar beet root maggot research of entomologist Dr. Stefan Jaronski (USDA-ARS-Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory – Sidney, MT) is featured as part of a new video entitled Marigolds for Montana: Discovery-based Learning Creating Synergy Between Manhattan Public Schools, USDA-ARS-Sidney and Montana State University." The video, to be released this month, is part of a larger educational and research effort that includes USDA-ARS, Montana State University – Bozeman, and the Manhattan (MT) Public Schools (a rural school system in southwestern Montana). Dr. Jaronski and Dr. Florence Dunkel, (Entomology Department, Montana State University-Bozeman) are currently studying the integration of marigold, Tagetes minuta, into organic sugarbeet cropping systems for management of nematodes and root maggots. Dr. Dunkel has demonstrated that essential oils from the marigold are feasible protective agents against nematodes, and now Dr. Jaronski is studying the impact extracts from the plant may have on sugar beet root maggots. As part of that research effort, Manhattan School students will be examining optimal fertilization regimes for marigold biomass production at their school, data from which will be used to guide full-field fertilization recommendations for growing the marigold. Conceived by Dr. Dunkel and funded by Toyota and Bell Atlantic awards to Montana State University, Marigolds for Montana is intended to provide students and teachers with the necessary background information to conduct their portion of the research effort. In particular, the video explores the concerns of all stakeholders involved in the production of sugar beets and sugar and the impact the development of an integrated, organic, pest management package could have on sugar beet production. It is specifically designed to help the students and faculty in the Manhattan MT Public Schools) understand the instrumental role that their involvement in the research project will play in developing this natural product (marigolds) for an IPM system.

(Stefan Jaronski, 406-433-9486, sjaronski[at]


NPARL Pest Management Research Leader Dr. Tom Shanower spoke to more than 200 budding agronomists, ecologists, chemists, entomologists and all around bug lovers at the Westside Elementary School "Career Day" held March 28 in Sidney, MT. Dr. Shanower talked about careers in biological and agricultural research, using entomology as an example. In addition to discussing the education and skills needed to pursue careers in the field, Dr. Shanower also explained to his young charges why he likes his job, why it's important and what one does in a research position. Targeting a little older audience, NPARL representatives also participated in the annual Sidney Job Service Career Day held at Sidney High School, Sidney, MT, on April 4. Attendance figures for the event were estimated at 500-600 students from four area high schools. The NPARL display for that event included posters listing different positions found at the laboratory with general education requirements and salary ranges. Numerous handouts, several provided by ARS Information Staff for just these kinds of events, were available along with a PowerPoint slide show that pictured different careers in ARS. Display items at the booth featured research samples, including fungi cultures, both good and bad, used in the biological control of grasshoppers and sugar beet diseases, respectively. Tools on display included a handheld GPS unit, mortar and pestle, digital calipers and data loggers, which several of the booth sitters demonstrated. Brief descriptions of how each tool was used in various research programs were also provided. Students were given "scavenger hunt" sheets with questions on a variety of careers. Those returning the completed sheets got a candy bar, which encouraged interaction between students and the exhibitors.


NPARL Microbiologist Mimi Harrington and Biological Science Technician Laura Senior gave a special presentation on polymers May 3 to the 7th grade Science Projects Class at Sidney Middle School in Sidney, MT. The curriculum, developed by Dr. Harrington, includes hands-on experiments predicting and testing the absorption qualities of different diapers and a "mystery substance" exercise in which students conducted simple experiments to identify similar-looking substances based upon their reactions under varying conditions. The Projects Class is offered as an elective to Middle School students with a special interest in science. This school also enjoyed a visit earlier this month from NPARL Research Agronomist Robert Kolberg who gave a presentation on soils to several of the school's 7th grade science classes. In his presentation, Dr. Kolberg first introduced students to the many disciplines within soil science and emphasized the expanding career opportunities in environmental and natural resources management. He then discussed the different factors involved in soil formation; in particular how landscape position influences soil type. He also worked with Mr. Mark Halvorson, the students' teacher, to demonstrate how a water sample containing mixed red and yellow food coloring is separated out by color when filtered through a soil. The separation is due to differing interactions (known as adsorption and desorption processes) of the two chemicals with the extensive surface area of the soil particles.

(Mimi Harrington, 406-433-9439, mharrington[at]

(Laura Senior, 406-433-9498, lsenior[at]

(Robert Kolberg, 406-433-9408, rkolberg[at]


NPARL Ecologist Greg Sword had them standing in line for his presentation "Let's Eat Bugs" at the second annual Marketplace for Kids Education Day, held May 13, in Williston, ND. Marketplace for Kids targets but is not limited to 4th through 6th grade students and is designed to encourage innovative thinking and problem-solving skills and to provide a showcase for young people's ideas. Students are invited to display their inventions and problem solving projects and attend mini classes on a variety of topics. Dr. Sword's mini-class looked at the world of insects, what they are, what they eat, and what eats them (guess who's included). His grand finale featured a special "grasshopper stir fry" with Mormon cricket appetizer for all to sample. Other NPARL personnel staffed the lab's display booth which also featured an insect theme. Marketplace for Kids is sponsored by Kent Conrad (U.S. Senator, North Dakota), Roger Johnson (North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture) and Wayne Sanstead (Superintendent of Public Instruction).


Last Modified: 11/9/2004