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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Northern PlainFacts.

Issue: March/April 2009

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:


ARS rep participates in Montana biocontrol planning meeting 

ARS rep gives noxious weed management workshop 

ARS Research Soil Scientists to attend European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria

ARS Facility Hosts Skywarn Training with NWS  
ARS weed ecologist participates in Sixth International IPM Symposium Montana ARS employees help judge science fair 

ARS researcher participates in regional ACE fish wildlife workshop





ARS rep participates in Montana biocontrol planning meeting

NPARL Biological Control Technician Mary Mayer represented the Sidney, MT ARS lab at the Biocontrol Coordinating Committee meeting held in Helena, MT on April 30 under the umbrella of the Montana Weed Control Association. Mayer, a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit, works with ARS Research Entomologist David Kazmer at Sidney studying biological control options for the noxious weed saltcedar. Bio-agents of many different noxious weeds and their status, be it research or distribution, were topics of discussion at the session. Researchers, county agents, and federal employees from APHIS as well as ARS discussed the possibilities of mass collections and state wide distributions for the year. The use of biological weed control agents is not a quick fix, but rather a long-term control method. In Montana, there are several biological weed control agents, which have been successful in reducing noxious weed infestations of leafy spurge, spotted knapweed and other invasive plants.


(Mary Mayer, 406.433.9426,



ARS rep gives noxious weed management workshop

NPARL Biological Science Technician Mary Mayer gave a workshop on biological control of noxious weeds as part of the Noxious Weed Management Short Course held April 27-30 at Chico Hot Springs, MT. The four-day Noxious Weed Management Short Course, sponsored by the Western Society of Weed Science, was developed for public and private land managers that want to gain a better understanding of ecologically sound management practices for invasive plants. Mayer gave four separate hands-on presentations to approximately 35 people covering saltcedar and knapweed biological control. As part of the workshop, participants dissected knapweed roots and seedheads searching for biocontrol agents. Mayer, a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit, has been involved as an instructor for the class for the past 15 years. Weed management professionals from throughout the West conducted the training program designed to encourage interaction between instructors and participants. Lab and field exercises, in addition to classroom sessions, were used as teaching methods. Mayer works with Dr. Dave Kazmer, Research Entomologist at NPARL studying the biological control of saltcedar.

(Dave Kazmer, 406.433.9140,

(Mary Mayer, 406.433.9426,


ARS Research Soil Scientists to attend the General Assembly Meeting 2009 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria

NPARL research soil scientists Jay D. Jabro, Upendra Sainju and TheCan Caesar will attend and give presentations at the General Assembly Meeting 2009 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) to be held April 19 to 24, 2009 in Vienna, Austria. Climate change, ocean acidification, the role of CO2 in geological systems, CO2 storage, pollution and health, renewable resources and low-carbon energy options are among this year's central issues.

Dr. Jabro will give the presentation titled “Automated Passive Capillary Lysimeters for Estimating Water Drainage in the Vadose Zone” coauthored with Dr. Bob Evans and Bill Iversen. The presentation focuses on results from work related to NPARL’s state-of-the-art passive capillary water sampler (PCAP) work from the Nesson Valley irrigated site. Within the EGU meeting, Dr. Jabro will be presenting within the Soil System Sciences program group session HS4.6 titled “Large Lysimeter Studies for Flow and Transport Model Validation” on Thursday, April 23. The motivation for this newly proposed session is that during the last couple of years lysimeter technology has made tremendous progress with respect to the accuracy of measurements, instrumentation, data acquisition, and the avoidance of typical lysimeter errors. The session intends to aim on documenting the state-of-the-art in lysimeter technology.

Dr. Sainju will give an invited oral presentation entitled “Long-Term Tillage and Cropping Sequence Influence on Dryland Soil Aggregate-Carbon Dynamics” coauthored with Drs. TheCan Caesar and Jay Jabro. Discussions of carbon sequestration and transformation in dryland soil aggregates as affected by 21 years of tillage and cropping sequence in eastern Montana will be presented in the Soil System Sciences program group session 38 “Molecular Biogeochemistry: The Fate of Organic Carbon in Soil” on Monday, April 20. This session is devoted to the molecular characterization (including isotopic analysis) of organic matter in the terrestrial environment in order to improve the understanding of the abiotic and biotic processes responsible for the cycling of terrestrial carbon.

Altogether, more than 9,000 scientists from all over the world are expected to give nearly 13,000 presentations at this year’s EGU General Assembly, which will cover all disciplines of the Earth and Planetary Sciences including: geology, geomorphology, geochemistry, geophysics, geobiology and hazards research as well as planetary and space sciences.

Jabro, Sainju and Caesar are from the Agricultural System Research Unit. 

(Jay Jabro, 406.433.9442,

(Upendra Sainju, 406.433.9408,

(TheCan Caesar, 406.433.9415, 


ARS Facility Hosts Skywarn Training with NWS

NPARL was the location for a free weather spotting class open to the public in Sidney, MT on Monday, April 13. Sidney ARS Safety and Occupational Health Specialist Jackie Couture was the location contact for the class sponsored by Richland County Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service in Glasgow, MT. The training was a two-hour interactive presentation that covered the basics of how thunderstorms form and other weather safety information. Subscribers to Verizon and Alltel also learned that they can now receive weather alerts on their cell phones. Several ARS employees have participated in this annual weather training and the Sidney location earned a NWS “StormReady Supporter” Certificate of Accomplishment earlier for its ongoing weather preparedness and outreach efforts.

(Jackie Couture, 406.433.9422,


ARS weed ecologist participates in Sixth International IPM Symposium 
NPARL Weed Ecologist Andrew Lenssen is participated in the Sixth International IPM Symposium, "Transcending Boundaries," held March 24-26, in Portland, Oregon. The event attracts hundreds of professionals in industry, government, universities, and non-governmental organizations from nearly two dozen countries. Symposium sessions addressed Integrated Pest Management (IPM) across disciplines internationally, in agriculture, the market place, urban settings, greenhouses, and more. For his part, Dr. Lenssen presented a poster entitled “Cultural Control of Weeds in Herbicide-Free Annual Forages” coauthored with Dr. S. Dennis Cash, with the Department of Animal and Range Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman. In their research, Drs. Lenssen and Cash have developed and tested cultural practices for herbicide-free production of annual cereal forage crops, including the influences of planting date, crop entry and population density, nitrogen fertilizer placement, and land rolling. They found that combining cultural practices for annual cereal forage crop production can reduce both herbicide use and weed seed production. Dr. Lenssen is a member of NPARL’s Agricultural Systems Research Unit.

(Andy Lenssen, 406.433.9471,



Montana ARS employees help judge science fair

NPARL ARS scientists John Gaskin, Dave Branson, Bob Srygley and technician Maureen O’Mara were among the 10 local volunteers who helped judge the Sidney (MT) Middle School Science Fair held March 12-13. Thirty nine students, in grades sixth through eighth, completed projects as part of the requirements for their Advanced Science class. The judges interviewed each student (or team of students in the case of joint projects) and scored the student projects in a variety of areas, including use of the scientific method, display quality, adherence to project guidelines, originality, as well as student understanding and oral communication. Project topics ranged from investigating how food types in diets can affect weight change in mice to testing the insulation properties of different materials. Gaskin, Branson, Srygley, and O’Mara are all from NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit.


(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444,

(Dave Branson, 406.433.9406,

(Robert Srygley, 406.433.9420,

(Maureen "Mo" O'Mara, 406.433.9497,

ARS researcher participates in regional ACE fish wildlife workshop

NPARL Research Botanist and Pest Management Research Unit Leader John Gaskin was invited to speak at the Northwestern Division of Army Corps of Engineers Fish and Wildlife Workshop held in Coeur D’Alene, ID, March 3-5. Dr. Gaskin’s presentation, entitled “The use of molecular genetics in controlling invasions,” was among several offered at the session on ongoing research surrounding invasive plant and animals. The three-day event included presentations by representatives from several state and federal agencies, organizations and private businesses and tribal governments and regarding fish and wildlife habitat and management programs and issues in the region.


(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444,


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Last Modified: 12/17/2009
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