...From the pages of Agricultural Research magazine
|New Roadside Grass Marketed
Seed for RoadCrest, a crested wheatgrass developed cooperatively by
ARS and scientists at Utah State
University, recently went on sale for the first time. RoadCrest was designed
for planting along roadsides and highways, at summer cabins, in roughs on golf
courses, or at similar sites in the West. It is also well suited for
revegetating sites disturbed by mining, construction, or wildfire.
RoadCrest greens up earlier in spring than some of the other wheatgrasses
tested. Like other cool-season grasses, it becomes dormant and brown in
midsummer but greens up again in late summer and fall. Its comparatively short
stature means it may need mowing only once or twice a summer. Tolerant of cold
and drought, RoadCrest should thrive in regions of the Intermountain and Great
Plains states that have mild summer temperatures and receive about 10 to 20
inches of precipitation a year. Small quantities of seed are now being marketed
by the trio of western companies that hold licenses to sell it: Wheatland Seed,
Inc., Brigham City, Utah; Bruce Seed Farm, Inc., Townsend, Montana; and Round
Butte Seed Growers, Inc., Culver, Oregon.
Kay H. Asay, USDA-ARS
Forage and Range Research
Unit, Logan, Utah; phone (435) 797-3069.
Restoring Burned Nevada Range
An emergency rehabilitation team working to revegetate some of the 1.6 million
western acres that burned last summer includes ARS rangeland experts. With more
than 50 years of researching the delicate, high-risk process of revegetating
semi-desert rangelands, the scientists are helping the interagency team decide
where to reseed and which plants to use.
They are working on ways to keep a fire-feeding weed called cheatgrass from
getting a stranglehold. Summer lightning typically starts fires on Nevada
rangeland. Fire spreads fast where cheatgrass proliferates, and the cheatgrass
returns afterward, before most other plants. But if the site is seeded with
perennial grasses soon after the rangeland burns for the first time,
rehabilitation has a chance; otherwise, cheatgrass reestablishes and becomes
increasingly difficult to control. Public land managers will use specialized
equipment designed for rocky, semi-desert soils to plant 5 million pounds of a
seed mix that includes native shrubs and grasses, as well as HyCrest, an
ARS-developed crested wheatgrass.
James A. Young, USDA-ARS
Exotic and Invasive Weeds
Research Unit, Reno, Nevada; phone (775) 784-6057.
History Buff's Guide to U.S. Farming
More than 200 years of U.S. farming history can now be easily accessed online.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture History Collection web site has been produced
by the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland, as a cooperative
project with the University of Maryland. The collection dates to USDA's
creation in 1862and before. It includes original letters, reports, and
other papers of USDA officials and agricultural historians, along with
additional materials gathered by the department over its nearly 140-year
history. Some manuscripts date back to the late 18th century. While the
immediate goal was to preserve the collection, NAL also created cataloging
records for the materials, took steps to protect deteriorating materials, and
reorganized the collection into a more user-friendly format. The 660 linear
feet of records are now housed in acid-free archival folders and cartons, and
more than 8,000 books and journals have been cataloged and added to the NAL
collection. Brought together over several decades by USDA agencies, the
materials also include photographs and videotapes.
To visit the new web site, go to
There, you will find a searchable guide to the collection, a map to help
navigate the site, highlights of the collection, and historical photo images
Susan H. Fugate,
Special Collections Section, Beltsville, Maryland; phone (301) 504-5876.
Latex From Desert Shrub Blocks Viruses, Bacteria
Preliminary tests show that surgical gloves, condoms, or other products made
from the natural rubber latex of a southwestern desert shrub called guayule are
an effective barrier against disease-causing bacteria and viruses. The tests
provide new evidence that medical, home, and industrial products made from
guayule latex may offer a safe, practical alternative for the estimated 20
million Americans allergic to latex productsusually made from the
Brazilian rubber tree. In 1994, ARS scientists were the first to show that
guayule latex is free of the allergens that can cause severe reactions in
Now, an ARS and an FDA researcher report that prototype patient-exam gloves and
condoms made of guayule latex have passed standard virus-permeability tests. In
those tests, a specially chosen virus was unable to slip through the latex
barriers. The virus is smaller than bacteria and the same size or smaller than
human disease-causing viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B, and herpes simplex. The
prototype gloves and condoms used for the tests were made of latex from
Arizona-grown guayule. They were the same thickness as commercially produced
gloves and condoms made of natural latex from the Brazilian rubber tree.
Katrina Cornish, USDA-ARS Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit, Albany, California; phone (510) 559-5950.
"Science Update" was published in the March 2000 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.