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Issue: January/February 2002
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Issue: January/February 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:


Upcoming Events

NPARL Active in Outreach Events

NPARL Focus Group Reorganizes

TEAM Leafy Spurge Resource Manuals Distributed

NPARL Scientist Attends Vienna BIPESCO Meeting

Grasshopper Researchers Speak at NGMB Meeting

Irrigation Specialist Addresses Water Users

Mormon Cricket Study Set in Dinosaur Park

Scientists Speak at Range Management Meeting

Grasshopper Specialist Advises Nature Show

Senator Requests Update on Expansion







NPARL scientists are participating in a number of outreach events in coming months, including the following:


16th Annual KUMV Farm & Ranch Show

March 20-21, 2002 Williston, ND


"Grasshopper Workshop"

Wyoming Department of Agriculture's Spring Workshop

March 25-26, 2002 Thermopolis WY


Scientists, technicians, and administrative and other NPARL personnel participated in a number of outreach events in the busy opening months of 2002. First on the agenda, MonDak Ag Days in Sidney, MT, Jan. 10-11, included an NPARL display booth, shared with Montana State University's Eastern Agricultural Experiment Station, and a special research overview presentation by lab officials. Participants were also invited to attend a "Sneak Preview" construction tour of NPARL's new lab/office complex on Jan. 12. More than 75 visitors participated in that event. In February, NPARL participated in the 49th annual Hard Spring Wheat Show in Williston, ND Feb. 5-7. The booth, again shared with MSU Eastern Ag Station and North Dakota State University's Williston Research Extension Center, featured research on the biological control of wheat stem sawfly along with other materials on soil quality research at NPARL. Immediately following that show, NPARL representatives traveled to Billings, MT for the regional Montana Agri-Trade Exposition Feb. 14-16. NPARL shared that booth with its sister ARS lab, the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City. Together the two facilities provide research support for nearly all aspects of agricultural production in the region.


Due to the rapid changes experienced by NPARL in the past few years, including expansions in personnel, programs and facilities, NPARL officials held a "re-organizational" meeting of the lab's Focus Group Feb. 21 in Sidney, MT. The Focus Group is a volunteer advisory group that provides input on existing programs, suggests new areas for research and provides leadership and grassroots support for NPARL programs, helping to keep lab constituencies well informed regarding new programs and alerting them to the need for new resources to address emerging agricultural concerns within the region. Participating in the Feb. 21 meeting were a number of regional and national ARS officials including Dr. Evert Byington, ARS National Program Leader, Rangeland, Pasture and Forages, Washington, DC; and Dr. Will Blackburn, USDA-ARS Northern Plains Area Director; Dr. Eric Roos, USDA-ARS Northern Plains Assistant Area Director; and Dr. Harriet Rector, USDA-ARS Northern Plains Area Program Analyst, all of Fort Collins, CO. During the morning session, Drs. Byington and Blackburn provided participants an overview of NPARL's role in the national and regional ARS structure, while NPARL coordinators Drs. Robert Evans and Tom Shanower provided an overview of research being conducted locally, while Dr. Jerald Bergman of Montana State University's Eastern Agricultural Research Station discussed collaborative efforts between his facility and NPARL. Scientists from the Sidney lab were also available throughout the day to answer questions. A working lunch was provided with speakers including local producer and state Rep. Don Steinbeisser and representatives Liz Ching (from Sen. Max Baucus office) and John Bennion (from Rep. Dennis Rehberg's office) providing insights into how to effectively work with your elected officials in Washington to get support for needed programs. In the afternoon session, participants received a brief overview of current program priorities identified by NPARL and then were asked to identify their own research priorities for the next five to ten years. The results of that brainstorming session are now being compiled and will be made available in mid- to late-March. Participants were also provided a brief question-and-answer session with Congressman Rehberg when he stopped by for an unexpected visit. A second, follow-up Focus Group meeting is tentatively planned for November.

(Robert Evans, 406-433-9496, revans[at]

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


TEAM Leafy Spurge distributed more than 1,800 Information Resource Center sets this past January to Extension Agents, Weed Supervisors and other interested parties across a six-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 by request 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 (To order, see below). 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. 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.

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

(Chad Prosser, 406-433-9403, cprosser[at]  


Dr. Stefan Jaronski, Research Entomologist at NPARL, attended the closing meeting of the BIPESCO FAIR6 project at the University of Vienna, Austria, January 24-25, 2002. The meeting dealt with biocontrol of important soil dwelling pests by improving the efficacy of insect pathogenic fungi, and presented an opportunity for leading European scientists, advisers and experts in the field to discuss the relevance of entomopathogenic hyphomycetes in controlling soil insects and the major issues confronting the commercialization of these fungi. BIPESCO (Biological Pest Control) is an EU-funded program to develop entomogenous fungi for the control of subterranean insect pests. Its specific objectives include: reducing production costs, risk assessment, stabilizing virulence and optimizing the impact of the fungi against target pests. Jaronski's research concerns development of a biologically based management system for sugarbeet pests and diseases, including entomogenous fungi for the control of the sugarbeet root maggot. His work is in collaboration with entomologists at North Dakota State University, USDA, Fargo ND, and plant pathologists at Montana State University, Bozeman MT. Previous to coming to USDA in 2000, he had been concerned with microbial insecticide research and development, and registration, 1983-2000, first at Abbott Laboratories, then at Mycotech Corporation.

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


Drs. David Branson, Stefan Jaronski and Gregory Sword attended the National Grasshopper Management Board (NGMB) annual meeting on January 29-30, 2002, in Denver, CO. Dr. Jaronski presented a talk entitled "Prevalence of grasshopper pathogens in response to rotational grazing - Interim report" and Dr. Sword presented a talk entitled "Mormon cricket band formation and migration: Rearing density doesn't "phase" Anabrus simplex." Dr. Branson's presentation described the USDA-ARS/APHIS/U. of Wyoming produced CD-ROM "Grasshoppers: Their Biology, Identification, and Management." The NGMB facilitates communication among various federal, state, local, and private parties with interests in grasshopper management on both public and private lands. Agenda items for this year's meeting included grasshopper management strategy updates, environmental concerns, industry updates, and future research directions.

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

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

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


Agricultural Engineer Dr. Robert Evans attended the Montana Water Resources Association Annual Meeting on January 29-30, in Fairmont Hot Springs, MT. Dr. Evans, an irrigation research specialist, spoke on "Irrigation Research and Future Development in Eastern Montana," one of the last regions to be developed for irrigation in the nation. The Association includes representatives of Irrigation and Rural Water Districts from across the state of Montana. Approximately 150 individuals attended the event.

(Robert Evans, 406-433-9496, revans[at]  


Ecologist Dr. Gregory Sword met with Steve Petersburg, Research Coordinator for Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado on Jan. 31, 2002. They discussed the logistics of a collaborative research project between Dr. Sword and Drs. Darryl Gwynne and Pat Lorch of the University of Toronto in Mississauga. The three scientists plan to use a combination of radiotelemetry and harmonic radar to track the movement of migratory Mormon cricket bands in and around Dinosaur National Monument during the summer of 2002. The objective of the project is discover the environmental cues that determine the direction, speed and distance of Mormon cricket migratory band movements. This information 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]


Three NPARL scientists traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, Feb. 13-19, to participate in the 55th Annual Meeting of the Society for Range Management. TEAM Leafy Spurge Program Coordinator Dr. Chad Prosser gave a presentation during the session entitled "Nutritional composition of selected invasive species." The objective of this study - conducted with Dr. Kevin K. Sedivec of the Animal & Range Science Dept., North Dakota State University-Fargo - was to evaluate the nutritional composition of spotted knapweed ( Centaurea maculosa), Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) when grazing is used as a tool for their control. Prosser and Sedivec also teamed with former NPARL scientist Kerri Skinner on another poster presentation of a study they did evaluating the methodology currently being used at military installations to monitor training impact on different ecosystems. Titled "Comparison of two techniques for monitoring vegetation on military lands," the study calls into question the validity of data collected under the current LCTA method. Prosser also presented a poster entitled "TEAM Leafy Spurge: A cooperative demonstration of biologically based IPM strategies," coauthored with TEAM Leafy Spurge Program Director Dr. Gerry Anderson, which discussed the success the national ARS research and demonstration program has had in achieving effective, affordable leafy spurge control through ecologically based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. Another NPARL representative giving a presentation at the SRM meeting was Research Entomologist Dr. David H. Branson. His offering was entitled "Effects of the timing and intensity of sheep grazing on grasshopper populations" which indicates that grazing management may not have large effects on grasshopper populations or vegetation when initiated during periods of high grasshopper densities. Also contributing to that study was Dr. Marshall R. Haferkamp (USDA-ARS Ft. Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, MT).

(Chad Prosser, 406-433-9403, cprosser[at]

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

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


Research Ecologist Greg Sword is serving as a scientific consultant for an upcoming episode of the television series "Bugs: The Secret World of Gardens" to be aired on the Home & Garden Television channel (HGTV) in the United States and Canada. The show explores the fascinating, but often overlooked relationships between the plants and insects that live in everyday yards and gardens. The episode Dr. Sword was asked to assist with focuses on grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. In addition to providing information, he will also screen the episode for content and accuracy prior to its broadcast. Dr. Sword is a grasshopper specialist at NPARL and was contacted by the show after they came across a reference to his work originally published in the May 2001 issue of the scientific journal Oecologia. In particular, the show's researchers asked him to elaborate on his research into grasshopper "tobacco juice," a potentially foul-tasting and toxic liquid regurgitated by grasshoppers as a defense mechanism against predators. Sword was also asked to provide additional information on grasshopper vision and to suggest other little-known facts about grasshoppers likely to interest the show's viewers. He reviewed a rough cut of the episode in late January and has been asked to help edit the final version later this spring. The final broadcast date has not yet been set.

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


On February 17, Senator Max Baucus (MT) met with NPARL research leaders, Dr. Robert Evans and Dr. Thomas Shanower, to receive an overview of the lab's Phase I construction effort scheduled for completion this coming summer and an update on Phase II of the project which has been approved and design plans completed, but which still awaits funding. Phase I of the lab expansion consists of construction of a new lab-office complex that includes 17 new offices and six new labs to accommodate the tremendous growth of the lab in the past decade. Phase II calls for the construction of a 12-bay greenhouse / headhouse complex and a new 5,860 sq. ft. biocontainment facility. The new biocontainment facility will allow NPARL scientists to do on-site host specificity testing to evaluate promising biological control agents. The importance of the Phase II construction to the region and the country as a whole, however, has taken on added significance following the September 11 terrorist attack. As one of only a handful of Biosafety Level 3 facilities in ARS and in the country, the new biocontainment building would be a significant addition to efforts to combat bio and agroterrorism in the United States.

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

(Robert Evans, 406-433-9496, revans[at]