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Issue: March/April 2000
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Northern PlainFacts.Northern PlainFacts image extension.

Issue: March/April 2000

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:

NPARL Groundbreaking

NPARL Welcomes Insect Pathologist

Biocontrol Insect Distributions Planned

Fungus Shown To Improve Soil Quality

Ag Research Day Held In Culbertson, MT

Spotted Knapweed Biocontrol Agent Promising

Team Leafy Spurge Briefs Canadians

Leafy Spurge Pictorial CD Available Soon





The Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is planning a groundbreaking ceremony at the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory (NPARL) in Sidney, MT for the addition of a new $7.9 million lab/office complex and biocontainment facility. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, 2000 in Sidney and is open to the public. Further details will be announced as plans are finalized. Among the dignitaries invited to participate are U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, members of the Montana and North Dakota congressional delegations and the governors of Montana and North Dakota. The addition of the new on-site biocontainment facility and the 1999 acquisition of a DNA sequencer to identify biocontrol agents, will make the Sidney facility one of the premiere biocontrol research centers in the nation. Threatened with closure as late as the mid-1990s, NPARL has since then more than doubled its professional workforce and research effort, making it one of the fastest growing facilities in ARS and necessitating the new construction effort. Strong local and regional support for the agricultural systems and pest management research done in Sidney, along with the lab's excellent cooperation with neighboring Montana State and North Dakota State University experiment stations, have all been critical components to its success.  


In mid-March, Dr. Stefan Jaronski joined the staff at NPARL. Dr. Jaronski, an insect pathologist who obtained his Ph.D. at Cornell University, comes to ARS after 16 years of industrial experience in the area of commercializing microbially-based insecticides. His primary research focus at NPARL will be on the microbial control of grasshoppers. These grasshopper studies will be carried out in Delta Junction, Alaska as well as in rangeland within the continental U.S. Dr Jaronski's research interests extend to projects other than the biological control of grasshoppers. He anticipates cooperating with USDA/ARS scientists in Fargo to address the Sugar Beet Root Maggot (Tetanops myopaeformis) problem, and eventually also may work on the biological control of beetles in canola and of Lygus spp. in alfalfa.

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


TEAM Leafy Spurge is once again planning to distribute leafy spurge biological control insects to interested landowners and managers this coming June. Tentative dates and locations for the distributions are listed below. These may change slightly depending upon weather conditions between now and the release dates. Any changes in dates or times for the distributions will be announced in the media and on the TEAM Leafy Spurge web site at


Progress toward the goal of improving dryland soil structure in the Northern Great Plains has been made through research efforts of Dr. TheCan Caesar. Working in conjunction with Verlan Cochran, Weilin Shelver (USDA/ARS, Fargo, ND) and R.G. Thorn (University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY), Dr. Caesar has found that russuloid basidiomycete fungi secrete extracellular materials that aid in the formation of soil aggregates. These water-stable aggregates improve soil structure, mitigating low organic matter problems as well as moisture percolation deficiencies. The water-stable soil aggregates formed by the fungal secretions were found to be more resistant to microbial decomposition, and thus more stable, when the soil aggregates were supplemented with carbon sources. Particular agricultural management practices were found to be associated with variation in the levels of soil-aggregating fungi present in dryland soils. Under no-till management, higher levels of fungi were found than were detected in either till or fallow management. This research will encourage the analysis of agricultural management practices that maximize the density and community of soil-aggregating russuloid basidiomycetes, leading to increased soil aggregation and enhancement of overall soil structure in the Northern Great Plains.

(TheCan Caesar, 406-433-9411, caesart[at] )


On March 30, Dr. Robert Kolberg and Dr. Joan Danielson attended the Ag Research Day held in Culbertson, MT. This special event, cosponsored by the Roosevelt and Sheridan Extension Service and Conservation Districts and NPARL, was designed to bring highlights of regional agricultural research to local producers. Dr. Kolberg's presentation included a brief overview of the organizational changes that have recently taken place at NPARL as well as the planned expansion for the laboratory. The research topics Kolberg presented covered key results from 1999 in the Agricultural Systems Unit. In precision agriculture, Kolberg reported a 2 ton/acre yield advantage in sugar beets when variable rate fertilizer application was used as compared to uniform rate application. In soil quality, Kolberg provided an overview of the role basidiomycete fungi can play in improving soil structure, especially under reduced or no-till management. Sidney is also doing ongoing cooperative research in soil quality with five other Great Plains locations (ND, SD, NE, CO, and TX). Differences in various soil properties (physical, chemical and biological) are being studied under contrasting types of management as well as changes in these properties over time . In cropping systems, Kolberg presented results of studies on rotations involving wheat and a variety of alternative crops. Economist Joan Danielson provided an overview of crop acreages and farm economics of northeastern Montana in a poster display. . Other ARS scientists also gave presentations at Ag Research Day, including Plant Pathologist, Joe Krupinsky and Soil Scientist, Don Tanaka (USDA/ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, ND) as well as Range Scientist, Marshall Haferkamp (USDA/ARS, Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, MT). Dr. Greg Johnson (Montana State University, Bozeman, MT) presented ideas for a proposed cropping systems study at the Froid Research Farm and solicited further input from attendees. Contact Dr. Johnson, Dr. Kolberg or your local county agent if you have opinions or ideas related to this new project.

(Gerry Anderson, 406-433-9405, ganderson[at]

(TheCan Caesar, 406-433-9411, caesart[at]

(Verlan Cochran, 406-433-9402, vcochran[at]

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

(Joan Danielson, 406-433-2020, jdaniels[at]


In conjunction with J.M. Story, W.R. Good and L.J. White (Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, Western Agricultural Research Center, Corvallis, MT), in February 2000, Dr. Lincoln Smith published a preliminary assessment of the effect of Agapeta zoegana for control of spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). A. zoegana L. (Lepidoptera: Cochylidae) is a Eurasian root-mining moth introduced in the United States beginning in 1984 as a biological control agent of this rangeland weed. The assessment reported on the effects of the interaction of the moth and grass competition on spotted knapweed growth in western Montana. Data collected during 1992 to 1994 revealed that A. zoegana was capable of establishing itself well within four years of initial release. Moreover, the moth appeared to be impacting knapweed plant growth. A. zoegana appeared to preferentially attack older, larger knapweed plants. The scientists believe that the effect of A. zoegana on knapweed growth is probably cumulative, with multiple years of attack necessary before the plants succumb. Grass competition also appeared to be a factor in limiting spotted knapweed.

(Lincoln Smith, 406-433-9439, lsmith[at]


TEAM Leafy Spurge coordinator Chad Prosser recently spoke at the third annual Municipal Weed Control Issues meeting in Holland, Manitoba. Prosser gave a presentation entitled "TEAM Leafy Spurge: A Cooperative Demonstration of Biologically Based IPM Strategies" to more than 200 Canadian weed control officers on March 15. TEAM Leafy Spurge also had a display at the event and distributed a significant quantity of printed materials on leafy spurge and integrated pest management to the weed inspectors, supervisors and other interested persons in attendance. Prosser also took the opportunity to network with Canadian weed control officers and weed board members, as well as members of the Manitoba Leafy Spurge Stakeholders Group. TEAM Leafy Spurge, a five-year IPM research and demonstration program, is committed to collaboration in order to achieve the ultimate objective of controlling leafy spurge in North America. TEAM Leafy Spurge maintains numerous ties with government agencies, researchers and other interested public and private entities in the United States and Canada.

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


The Agricultural Research Service's TEAM Leafy Spurge project headquartered in Sidney, MT along with the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service office in Bozeman, announce the development of a new Leafy Spurge CD which will be made available to the public in mid-May 2000. The CD, entitled "Leafy Spurge Biological Control: Informational and Photo Resource Gallery," includes hundreds of fascinating photos of biological control agents used in the battle against leafy spurge. "Before-and-after" photos demonstrating the impact of these agents are included, as are images of the noxious weed itself and pictures showing the proper handling of the biocontrol agents. The CD also contains posters and bulletins providing information on each of the biological control agents featured, as well as an overview of leafy spurge. A reference section listing sources for further information is provided. The photos were taken by Robert Richard, the director of the APHIS Lab in Bozeman, who, with technician Lana King, put together the CD using funding from TEAM Leafy Spurge. Persons interested in receiving a copy of the pictorial CD should contact TEAM Leafy Spurge at 406-433-9427, or send an e-mail request to Bredlin[at] The regular mailing address for the pictorial CD requests is TEAM Leafy Spurge, USDA-ARS NPARL, Box 463, Sidney, MT 59270. The PC-compatible CD-ROM is free.  


Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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