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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Issue: September/October 2006
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Northern PlainFacts.

Issue: September/October 2006

The Northern PlainFacts electronic newsletter offers brief updates on research, personnel, and events from both the Agricultural Systems Research Unit and Pest Management Research Unit at NPARL, and includes contact names and information for those interested in further details. 

In This Month's Issue:


Montana ARS lab uses Internet to teach students

ARS scientist invited to speak at IOBC meeting

ARS scientist at Tamarisk Research Conference

ARS Entomologist published in BioScience

ARS representatives to address women in ag

ARS Botanist Participates In “Outdoor Classroom”

Montana ARS Lab Hosts Second E-cycling Event




Montana ARS lab uses Internet to teach middle school students

Thirty-two middle school students from Frontier Elementary School in Wolf Point, MT are learning about fungal and bacterial pathogens through a unique outreach effort by NPARL. The 7th and 8th grade students, who are studying pathogens in their classroom 90 miles away and preparing for upcoming science fairs, toured NPARL Oct. 27, and heard presentations from three NPARL scientists. Botanist John Gaskin discussed how to set up science experiments, while Plant Pathologists Anthony Caesar and Robert Lartey discussed their research into biological control of weeds (Caesar) and the biological control of Cercospora leaf spot of sugar beet (Lartey) both using fungal pathogens. Biological Science Technicians Sophia Hanson, Audrey Harris and Laura Senior then followed up with a hands-on activity demonstrating how to inoculate a tomato plant with gall-forming agrobacterium as well as showing petri plates growing bacteria and fungi from everyday items such as a tree, fork, toilet, etc. The students were then given an opportunity to inoculate their own plates, with many choosing to swab body parts including their teeth, skin and for the more adventuresome, their armpits and belly buttons. The inoculated plates will be kept at NPARL where staff will photograph them as they grow and post the images on the lab’s website for the students to track from their distant classroom. A description of the activity along with information on how bacterial and fungal pathogens are used in NPARL research efforts will also be included. NPARL staff participating in the event represented both the lab’s Agricultural Systems Unit and the Pest Management Unit.

(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444,

(Robert T. Lartey, 406.433.9490,

(Anthony Caesar, 406.433.9412,


 ARS entomologist invited to speak at IOBC meeting

Stefan Jaronski, Research Entomologist at NPARL, Sidney MT made a presentation to the biennial meeting of the IOBC (International Organization for Biological Control)/WPRS sub-group "Soil Insect Pests" of the entomopathogens and entomoparasitic nematodes working group, which met in Auer, Souith Tyrol of Italy October 15-18. His presentation, entitled "Challenges in using Metarhizum anisopliae for biocontrol of the sugarbeet root maggot," generated a lot of interest among the European members of the group. Jaronski is the first American to participate in the past several years. In addition, Dr. Jaronski visited the laboratory of Hermann Strasser, Institute of Microbiology, at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. There, Jaronski presented more of his recent research and discussed areas of future collaboration.
(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486, 


ARS entomologist invited to speak at Tamarisk Research Conference

NPARL Entomologist Dave Kazmer has been invited to speak at the 2006 Tamarisk Research Conference: Current Status and Future Directions to be held Oct.3-4 in Fort Collins, CO. Dr. Kazmer will give a presentation on “Biological control of tamarisk: Establishment, population increase, and impacts of Diorhabda spp. at experimental release sites in the western U.S.” In addition to Dr. Kazmer’s presentation, NPARL Botanist John Gaskin will have two posters on display at the event, the first co-authored with Dr. Kazmer, is entitled “Comparison of ornamental and wild saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) along eastern Montana riverways using chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequence markers” and the second, coauthored with Patrick B. Shafroth of the U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, is entitled “Hybridization of Tamarix ramosissima and T. chinensis (saltcedars) with T. aphylla (athel) (family Tamaricaceae) in the southwestern USA determined from DNA sequence data.” Drs. Kazmer and Gaskin are members of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit. The purpose of the conference is to bring tamarisk researchers together to share their results with other scientists and western land managers and to promote dialogue between researchers and managers to identify future research needs for the development of effective policy and management decisions. Currently, the non-native tamarisk (Tamarix spp.), also known as saltcedar, occupies hundreds of thousands of acres in arid and semi-arid western North America. The conference is sponsored by more than a dozen public and private agencies and organizations, including ARS.

(David Kazmer, 406.433.9440,

(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444,


ARS entomologist published in

NPARL Entomologist David Branson and his coauthors contend in a paper published in the September edition of Bioscience that new approaches for sustainable management of grasshoppers in U.S. rangeland hold great promise and should be pursued. Branson and his coauthors, Dr. Anthony Joern of Kansas State University, Manhattan, and Dr. Gregory Sword. a former ARS ecologist and current senior lecturer at Sydney University, Sydney Australia, cite evidence that habitat manipulation tactics, such as fire and certain grazing techniques, can be used as sustainable and environmentally friendly means for maintaining rangeland grasshopper populations at economically non-threatening levels. These tactics fit in well with other sustainable strategies aimed at managing grasslands as renewable resources, they contend. The article was published in the September 2006 issue of Bioscience. Dr. Branson is a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit.

(David Branson, 406.433.9406,


ARS representatives to address women in ag conference

Dr. Robert Evans, Research Leader of NPARL’s Agricultural Systems Research Unit has been invited to speak on the latest research activities at NPARL at the 6th annual Women Stepping Forward for Agriculture Symposium to be held in Sidney, MT Sept. 26-27. Also invited to speak at the event is another ARS representative, Dr. Rod Heitschmidt, Research Leader from the Fort Keogh ARS Livestock and Rangeland Research Laboratory at Miles City, MT, along with representatives from several other state and federal ag agencies and organizations and private industry. The symposium is sponsored by the USDA State Food and Agriculture Council, Montana Agri-Women, Montana Cattlewomen, Montana Farm Bureau Women and Women involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) and was originally instituted to provide a platform for women involved in the promotion of Montana’s agriculture.

(Robert Evans, 406.433.9486,

Montana ARS Botanist Participates In “Outdoor Classroom” Education Effort
NPARL Botanist John Gaskin is participating in a two-county “Outdoor Classroom” program September 14 for eighth-grade students from rural and urban schools in eastern Montana. Gaskin, a researcher with the biological control of weeds program at the Sidney ARS lab’s Pest Management Research Unit, will be doing a hands on presentation on plant identification, using the program’s outdoor meeting site as his laboratory. Students will be divided into teams and then given the opportunity to find and identify dozens of plants by comparing them with samples previously collected by Gaskin at the site. In addition to discussing plant identification and diversity in rangeland, Gaskin will also discuss the dangers posed by invasive plants in the region. The two-day Outdoor Classroom event, now in its fourth year, is sponsored by the Richland and Roosevelt (MT) County Conservation Districts and targets 8th grade students in both counties. More than 200 students from a half dozen area schools located in surrounding rural communities and on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation are expected to participate in the 2006 event. In addition to Gaskin’s presentation, the day-long program included talks on GPS, surveying, endangered species and more by representatives from a variety of state and federal agencies.


(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444,

Montana ARS Lab Hosts Second E-cycling Event
For the second year in a row, more than 4 tons of electronic waste was collected during the “E-rase your E-waste” event held at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, MT Sept. 8-9. Altogether 9,336 pounds of obsolete electronic products were brought in for recycling at the 2006 event, 1,000 more pounds than the previous year, according to NPARL Occupational Health and Safety Officer Jackie Couture, who initiated the first “E-rase your E-Waste” event last year in her role as chair of the Richland County Local Emergency Planning Committee. Organizers of the 2006 event included Richland County LEPC, Richland Opportunities, Inc., the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, the Richland County Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, and the local Community Emergency Response Team. This year’s event also received significant support from the local hospital, Sidney (MT) Health Center, who contributed $800.00 in matching funds to help reduce costs for participating individuals and businesses, as well as e-cycling their own employees’ obsolete electronics for free. The event also received promotional support from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which has adopted the group’s slogan and logo for use in their own new statewide pilot program. Last year’s E-rase your E-waste event at NPARL was only the second e-cycling event ever held in the state of Montana, but has spurred increased interest in e-cycling across the state, according to Montana DEQ representatives. The E-rase your E-waste program has also impacted efforts in other states, including North Dakota and California, where e-cycling proponents there have also utilized promotional materials developed at NPARL for their own events. The materials are posted for all to use on the ARS lab’s website at

(Jackie Couture, 406.433.2022,


Last Modified: 9/24/2008
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