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Issue: July/August 2001
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Issue: July/August 2001

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

Visiting Microbiologist Studying Fungi in Soil

TEAM Leafy Spurge Featured in NPR Report

NPARL Hosts International Locust Specialists

NPARL Holds Field Day on Dryland Research

Entomologist Attends International Conference

Sugarbeet Research Presented at APS Meeting

Irrigation SpecialistParticipates in ND Summit

Hopper Scientists Meet With Overseas Researchers

NPARL Scientists Give Presentations in Japan

Spurge Rep Discusses Weed Control Success

TEAM Leafy Spurge in South Dakota

Irrigation, Sugarbeet Research Outreach Focus

Informational Items Available from NPARL









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


First International Symposium on Arthropod Biological Control

September 17-21, 2001

Honolulu, Hawaii

For more information:


A Vietnamese soil microbiologist, nominated by CIRAD (Centre International de Recherches sur l'Agriculture pour le Development) arrived August 6 from Vietnam to work with TheCan Caesar, NPARL research microbiologist. Ms. Tran Tu Thuy is a senior scientist working at the Vietnamese Institute of Agriculture in Hanoi, Vietnam. She came to learn techniques for detection and identification of specific basidiomycete fungi, indicators of soil quality. The scientific collaborative research between CIRAD and Caesar was initiated in 2000 to work on a project involving Mountain Agricultural Systems in Vietnam. The objective is to find ways to combat degradation of soil and loss of organic matters due to management practices (deforestation, slash and burn and intensive tillage) to improve sustainability. This research is designed to provide alternative management techniques for subsistence level producers that may ultimately prove beneficial to producers in similar agroecosystems around the world. This scientific collaboration between CIRAD and USDA/ARS will also enable Caesar to verify and compare data collected from studies in US agricultural systems with data developed in tropical agricultural systems. Caesar's current research is to study microbes, in particular fungi, that have the capability to increase soil aggregation and stabilization in dryland agricultural systems.

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


TEAM Leafy Spurge Coordinator Chad Prosser discussed biocontrol strategies and Integrated Pest Management techniques for controlling leafy spurge in a July 31st interview with National Public Radio reporter Clay Scott. Scott was interviewing Prosser for a segment of "Living On Earth," a weekly environmental news and information program distributed by National Public Radio. Prosser discussed the research and demonstration efforts conducted by TEAM Leafy Spurge and the success the project has had employing Integrated Pest Management techniques - including biological control, grazing, herbicides and combinations thereof - to control the noxious weed. Reduced reliance on expensive and environmentally risky herbicides, as well as long-term control of this invasive weed, is the focus of TEAM Leafy Spurge efforts. In particular, TEAM Leafy Spurge has emphasized the use of environmentally friendly biological control methods (using Aphthona flea beetles) with considerable success. The "Living On Earth" segment is scheduled to air the first or second week in September and will also be available at LOE's web site following that air date at:

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


NPARL hosted two international locust specialists July 5-6, who came to Sidney to discuss how grasshopper research work being done here might apply to locust control efforts in Africa. International Program Leader Alan Schroeder of USDA/ARS/OIRP, who also oversees the USAID/AFR/SD/CMR African Emergency Locust and Grasshopper Assistance Project, and Roger Price of the Plant Protection Research Institute of South Africa were particularly interested in working with NPARL scientists to examine more closely the economics of locust control efforts in South Africa. Improved tools for forecasting outbreaks and for assessing crop losses were of particular interest as well as means for establishing economic thresholds for treatment. Schroeder and Price also expressed interest in alternatives to spraying including biological control and IPM strategies. Accompanying Schroeder and Price to Sidney was USDA/ARS/OIRP International Affairs Specialist Eileen Herrera, who also joined in meetings with NPARL grasshopper researchers David Branson, Gregory Sword and Stefan Jaronski.

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

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

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


The Culbertson/Froid Agricultural Research Farm held its annual field day Thursday, July 26. The event was cosponsored by NPARL and the Roosevelt and Sheridan County Conservation Districts. The opening presenter, Research Leader Tom Shanower, discussed ongoing research within the Pest Management Research Unit. NPARL ag economist Joan Danielson discussed cropping trends within Montana that indicate an increased interest in alternative crops in the northeast compared to the remainder of the state. This is particularly true of oilseed crops, which have substantial loan deficiency payments. A variety of presentations were given during the tour. Conservation District representative Mike Christoffersen discussed the merits of grazing alternative forages in test plots, showing off the Dahurian Wildrye (Elymus diahuricus) used as a forage crop in one example. Biological science technician Lyn Solberg discussed the ongoing research of microbiologist TheCan Caesar who is studying a class of soil fungi (Basidiomycetes) and their role in improving soil quality. Results show that less tillage and, in the first few years, reduced nitrogen fertilizer promote desired soil fungal growth. She also explained that Ceasar plans to explore how certain soil fungal enzymes deactivate weed seed defenses in an attempt to understand how no-till systems may provide comparable weed control while using less chemicals. Research technician Rene France reviewed research by soil scientist Verlan Cochran concerning the use of lentils as "green manure" in a rotation with spring wheat. Cochran's study indicates that lentils can be grown to full bloom, then be killed for green manure without depleting stored soil water, at least during years of normal or higher precipitation. However, research further indicates the need for supplemental nitrogen in the rotation for the first three to four years to maintain sufficient levels for following crops. Future research will focus on improving economic returns from green manure through grazing. Agronomist Robert Kolberg discussed his cropping systems study which compares 2-, 3- and 4-year rotations involving only small grains to those which include wheat and various combinations of peas, millet, and safflower. An economic summary of that study to date shows that millet is not economically viable and peas, while no better than wheat economically, did lead to increased wheat yields in following years. Standing next to a monitoring well, speaker, Rob Bray of NRCS, discussed one aspect of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), that is to assist landowners in the management of saline seep. Under the program, producers get support for planting high water-use forage crops to soak up excess water in recharge areas above saline seep trouble spots. Alfalfa, in particular, has been used successfully and profitably for this purpose, helping to lower the water table in the recharge area and the subsequent saline seep in the discharge areas, he said. Andy Lenssen, a research associate with Montana State University, spoke on two projects. The first, a new 5-year rotation study by MSU in cooperation with NPARL using a variety of annual forages (hay barley, peas, millet, alfalfa) in rotation with wheat. The use of forage crops in the rotation was initiated partly in response to the establishment of the Moo Juice Dairy in Sidney and the possibility that other dairies could be established providing a ready forage market. Specialists from several fields will take part in the study which will look at crop and forage yields and quality along with any weed, insect or disease cycles arising under the various rotations. Lenssen also discussed a second research effort focused on canola which includes a variety trial, a nitrogen and phosphorous interaction trial, a seed priming trial and an insect pest monitoring effort. In closing the tour, Research Leader Bob Evans gave an update on his irrigation research as well as a wrap-up regarding the new building project at NPARL in Sidney. Lunch was provided courtesy of the Roosevelt and Sheridan County Conservation Districts.

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


Research Insect Pathologist Stefan T. Jaronski attended the Annual Meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology August 24-29 in Noowijkerhout, The Netherlands. Jaronski presented the results of his 2000 research in Alaska, "Orthopteran Thermoregulation and Behavioral Fever in Central Alaska - A Chilling Prospect for Entomopathogens such as Beauveria bassiana?" Jaronski also participated in the business and general meetings of the Microbial Control Division, as Member-at-Large, and helped to judge student presentations during the meeting. While in the Netherlands, Jaronski also visited fellow insect pathologist Joanna Fransen in Aalsmeer to discuss mass production techniques for entomopathogenic fungi.

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


NPARL Research Plant Pathologist Robert T. Lartey attended the Annual Meeting of the American Phytopathological Society in Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 25-29. This year's meeting was a joint effort of APS, the Mycological Society of America and the Society of Nematologists and embodied its theme, "Intersociety Cooperation and Collaborations." Lartey presented a poster entitled "Evaluation of Fungal Antagonists for Control of Cercospora Leaf Spot.. The poster discussed his promising research into the novel use of soil-inhabiting fungal antagonists (Trichoderma harzianum, Trichoderma aureoviride and Laetisaria arvalis) as biological control agents for Cercospora beticola, a foliar pathogen and the causal agent of Cercospora leaf spot in sugar beets.

(Robert T. Lartey, 406-433-9490, rlartey[at]


NPARL Agricultural Engineer Robert Evans, who also heads up the Agricultural Systems Research Unit at NPARL, joined with North Dakota State University irrigation researchers and Extension specialists in Fargo and Carrington, ND Aug. 23-24 to review current irrigation research and to help plan for the second annual North Dakota Irrigation Research Summit. The summit is a follow-up to a November 2000 meeting convened to determine the irrigation research needs of North Dakota. Evans, an ARS irrigation specialist, attended the meetings to explore regional efforts in irrigation research and how ARS researchers can contribute to those efforts. Expanded collaborative irrigation research in the Nesson Valley of Western North Dakota was one such area of cooperation identified at the summit.

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


Research Entomologist David Branson and Research Ecologist Greg Sword traveled abroad in August to meet with internationally renowned locust biologist Prof. Steve Simpson at the University of Oxford, Oxford, England before continuing on to Montpellier, France Aug. 19-22 for the International Conference on Orthopteroid Insects. While at the University of Oxford visiting Simpson's lab, Sword presented a seminar entitled "Local ecological conditions and the expression of phase polyphenism" and Branson gave a talk on the interactions between livestock herbivory and grasshopper population dynamics. At the Montepellier conference, held once every four years, both Branson and Sword presented posters, with Sword also giving a talk on "The relationship between density-dependent aposematism and gregariousness in unpalatable and palatable Schistocerca emarginata (=lineata) populations." Sword presented a poster on the same topic along with a second entitled: "A molecular technique for the analysis of grasshopper diet." Branson presented two posters including "Effects of grasshopper densities and climate conditions on grasshopper survival and reproduction" and "Effects of the timing and intensity of livestock grazing on grasshopper population dynamics during a grasshopper outbreak." The latter was developed in collaboration with Dr. Marshall R. Haferkamp, a rangeland scientist with the USDA/ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, MT. All attendees at the conference received a copy of the recently released "Grasshoppers: Their Biology, Identification and Management" CD-ROM, a joint technology transfer project of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, along with the University of Wyoming at Laramie. The CD was developed at NPARL with Branson as co-editor.

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

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


NPARL Microbiologist TheCan Caesar and Research Plant Pathologist Anthony Caesar visited Utsonomiya University, Utsonomiya, Japan on July 4, 2001 to present seminars entitled "Role of basidiomycetes in soil aggregation" and "Combinations of insects and soilborne plant pathogens for the biological control of perennial weeds," respectively. Dr. Ryo Fukui, Professor of Tropical Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture hosted them. T. Caesar then led a discussion with students and faculty on the effects on soil quality of slash and burn agriculture as practiced in upland rice growing areas. That discussion was followed by more informal interactions with students and faculty regarding potential collaborations. Utsonomiya University is located about 3 hours by car north of Tokyo. It is primarily a technical university and is under the administration of the national government.

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

(Anthony Caesar, 406-433-9412, caesara[at]


TEAM Leafy Spurge Co-Principal Investigator Gerry Anderson was among the speakers invited to discuss "Noxious Weed Management Success" at the 9th annual North American Weed Management Association Conference and Trade Show held August 14-16 in Colorado Springs, CO. In his NAWMA presentation Anderson discussed TEAM Leafy Spurge's work and the success the project has had employing Integrated Pest Management techniques to control the noxious weed. While at this event, Anderson also distributed samples of materials produced by TEAM Leafy Spurge that are used to educate the public on various IPM strategies for managing the weed, including two popular handbooks on grazing and biological control. In addition to his appearance at the NAWMA conference, Anderson attended a Colorado Tamarisk Association meeting to discuss the use of remote sensing for assessing saltcedar infestations as well as a USDA-APHIS meeting to discuss another remote sensing effort to identify and assess the impact of Pierce's disease on grapes.

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


TEAM Leafy Spurge Coordinator Chad Prosser discussed biocontrol strategies and techniques for managing leafy spurge at two different Field Day events held recently in South Dakota. The first event, held June 19th in Lodgepole, SD along the Grand River drainage, was sponsored by the Perkins County Extension Service and attracted approximately 30 farmers, ranchers, and state and federal agency representatives. It was the first leafy spurge tour held in the area which had been the recipient of a biocontrol agent release a year earlier. Tell-tale signs of that release - cratering, dead and dying spurge plants - were evident throughout. Prosser and others also discussed control of leafy spurge using combinations of sheep grazing and herbicides and sheep grazing and biological control at a second tour held July 20th in Buffalo, SD. Scott Kronberg of USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Lab in Mandan, ND also discussed his grazing studies at this event. Approximately 30 people attended that tour held at the TEAM Leafy Spurge Demonstration Site along the south fork of the Moreau River.

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


NPARL representatives participated in several outreach activities in July and August. The lab had a display booth at the Richland County Fair and Rodeo held in Sidney, MT Aug. 1-4. The booth included information on research conducted at the facility, highlighting, in particular, the sugarbeet research work being conducted by Robert T. Lartey and Stefan Jaronski.. Lartey is studying the use of soil-inhabiting fungal antagonists as biological control agents for Cercospora beticola, a foliar pathogen and the causal agent of Cercospora leaf spot in sugar beets. Jaronski's work focuses on the biological control of sugarbeet root maggot using fungi. On, Aug. 8, Ag Systems Research Leader Robert Evans spoke to an Ag Invitational Tour group, outlining progress made on the new lab and office complex being built at NPARL and how that new facility will further solidify NPARL's contributions to the MonDak "research triangle." This "research triangle," consisting of NPARL, Montana State University's Eastern Agricultural Research Center in Sidney, MT and North Dakota State University's Williston Research Extension Center, can deliver applied and basic research on any crop grown in the region, as well as offer support to producers looking at new crops for the area. The annual three-day Ag Invitational brings together agricultural industry representatives including food processors, researchers, growers and financiers for tours of Mon-Dak area ag operations and facilities. In addition to his participation in the August Ag Invitational, Evans also spoke at the Richland County Conservation District Irrigation Tour on July 24. His presentation there focused on flood conversion and water savings.


The following items are available free of charge from NPARL. To order, write, call or fax your request to the address and numbers listed below. Where available, e-mail addresses and Internet sign-up sites for ordering are listed under each item.

"Grasshoppers: Their Biology, Identification and Management" CD-ROM:

This CD contains the latest research in grasshopper management, identification, ecology, and control tactics. To date nearly 1,000 CDs have been distributed to more than 38 states and an equal number of countries. To request a copy sign up on the web at Grasshopper CD Form (Click here) or e-mail your request to hoppercd[at] Include your name and mailing address.


Spurge Grazing, Biocontrol Manuals:

"Multi-Species Grazing and Leafy Spurge" is a full-color, 28-page how-to handbook that focuses on multi-species grazing as a tool to manage leafy spurge, improve range health and productivity, and potentially add a profitable enterprise to existing ranch operations. The manual is the second in a series. The first, "Biological Control of Leafy Spurge," a full color, 20-page manual on using leafy spurge flea beetles, is also available from NPARL. More than 20,000 copies of this popular publication have already been distributed. To order either manual send an e-mail request to teamls[at] Both manuals can also be downloaded or viewed on-line from the TEAM Leafy Spurge website at


Coming Soon:

Version 4.0 of the award-winning "Purge Spurge: Leafy Spurge Database" CD-ROM. To date all 500 evaluation copies of this CD have been distributed. However, additional copies of the final CD will be available in another month to month and a half. The CD contains more than 900 journal articles, Extension publications, symposium proceedings and abstracts and other items pertaining to the management of leafy spurge.