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Issue: May/June 2001
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Northern PlainFacts.Northern PlainFacts image extension.

Issue: May/June 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

New Grasshopper Management CD-ROM

Spurgefest II A Success

TEAM Leafy Spurge Publishes Grazing Manual

TEAM Leafy Spurge Publishes "Purge Spurge" Update

Field Tour Inspires New Biocontrol Effort

Role Of Fungi As Early Indicators Of Soil Quality

Scientist Speaks In Guam

Scientist's Research Featured In Media

Grasshopper And Mormon Cricket Work In Wyoming

Award-WinningNPARL Outreach In North Dakota








NPARL scientists are participating in a number of outreach events in coming months. Included below is a list of those events, their dates and locations.


North Dakota State University

Williston Research Extension Center Field Day

July 12, 2001

Williston, ND

For more information, contact Kathy at: expwill[at]


Montana State University

Eastern Agricultural Research Center Field Day

July 18, 2001 Sidney, MT

For more information, contact Janelle at: jjensen[at]



Culbertson/Froid Agricultural Research Farm Field Day

July 26, 2001 Culbertson, MT

For more information, contact Robert Kolberg at: rkolberg[at]


Vth International Safflower Conference

July 23-27, 2001

Williston, ND & Sidney, MT


The Practice of Biological Control: Importation and Management of Natural Enemies and Agents (An International Symposium)

August 2-5, 2001

Montana State University, Bozeman, MT


A new CD-ROM "Grasshoppers: Their Biology, Identification and Management" is now available from NPARL. The CD is a joint technology transfer project of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the University of Wyoming-Laramie and contains the latest research in grasshopper management, identification, ecology, and control tactics. It is a comprehensive source of information on grasshoppers useful for researchers, ranchers, land managers, extension agents and the general public. Included on the CD are complete versions of APHIS' "Grasshopper Integrated Pest Management User Handbook," R.E. Pfadt's "Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers" (and its accompanying 56 species fact sheets), J.L. Capinera and T.S. Sechrist's "Grasshoppers of Colorado," and "Hopper 4.0" and "Carma 3.3," both decision support computer software. Also included is the latest research on using grazing management to reduce grasshopper outbreaks, and new grasshopper control methods which reduce pesticide application rates, costs and environmental concerns. The CD, edited by NPARL Research Entomologist David Branson and Technical Information Specialist Bethany Redlin, requires a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator to view. The Grasshopper CD is free. If you are interested in receiving a copy please e-mail your request to hoppercd[at] Include your name and mailing address or sign up on the web at: Grasshopper CD Form (click here). You can also write or call in your request to the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, Box 463, Sidney, Montana 59270. 406-433-2020. Plans also call for the information on the CD to be made available on the Internet later this summer.


TEAM Leafy Spurge's "Spurgefest II," held June 19-21 in Medora, N.D., went off without a hitch, with both planners and participants describing the event an overwhelming success. "Spurgefest II" was attended by nearly 300 ranchers, landowners, land managers, and representatives from numerous local, state and federal organizations and agencies. The three-day event featured a TEAM Leafy Spurge symposium, tours of biologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) research and demonstration sites, and a hands-on flea beetle collection demonstration. The latter proved particularly successful with more than three million flea beetles distributed to ranchers, landowners and land managers from throughout the region. Of those, more than 300,000 flea beetles were given to representatives from two Canadian provinces along with additional distributions to state agency representatives from Iowa, Idaho and Nebraska. Baldo Villegas, an entomologist with the California Department of Food & Agriculture, left with enough information and flea beetles to start his state's first leafy spurge biocontrol program. Also attending the event was Lori Williams, executive director of the National Invasive Species Council, who noted that the TEAM Leafy Spurge program and events like Spurgefest provided great examples of bringing federal, state and local interests together in a united effort to battle invasive weeds. "This program is serving as a model and showing how coordination can help reduce the impact of invasive species." TEAM Leafy Spurge is a five-year IPM research and demonstration project funded and led by the USDA-ARS in partnership with the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Sponsors for Spurgefest II include the USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, Theodore Roosevelt National Park/National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the BASF Corporation and Dow Agrisciences Corporation. For additional information on TEAM Leafy Spurge, leafy spurge biocontrol or Integrated Pest Management, see the TEAM Leafy Spurge website at or send an e-mail to teamls[at]  


If you're interested in using sheep to manage leafy spurge, TEAM Leafy Spurge has just released a must-read manual to answer many of your questions. "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. Tim Faller, director of the North Dakota State University-Hettinger Research Extension Center and leader of the TEAM Leafy Spurge multi-species grazing research and demonstration project, says the manual is a particularly good tool for ranchers who are new to the sheep business. The manual covers all of the basics. Topics include how multi-species grazing works, what can be expected from multi-species grazing programs, diet selection, stocking rates, fencing requirements, predation and more. It also features an extensive section on economics, including models that walk ranchers through different economic scenarios to see if multi-species grazing is a good fit for their existing operation. The manual is available by calling 406-433-2020 or by sending an e-mail request to teamls[at] It can also downloaded or viewed on-line from the TEAM Leafy Spurge website at


Evaluation copies of Version 4.0 of the award-winning "Purge Spurge: Leafy Spurge Database" CD-ROM are now available from TEAM Leafy Spurge. The CD contains more than 800 journal articles, Extension publications, symposium proceedings and abstracts and other items pertaining to the management of leafy spurge. Version 4.0 is the latest in a series of "Purge Spurge" CDs first developed by then NPARL research entomologist Neal Spencer and project manager Janet (Petroff) Clark and last updated in 1995. Version 4.0, produced by TEAM Leafy Spurge, brings the CD up-to-date and also uses a new program, Adobe's portable document format, to present the information. Version 4.0 Project Manager/Editor Bethany Redlin, a technical information specialist at NPARL, said the new format was chosen to provide better print quality and handling of graphics, figures and tables, while still providing easy-to-use navigational tools similar to those found on the original CD (i.e. linked table of contents, full-text search capabilities and search options by author, title and keyword). "Purge Spurge" earned Spencer a federal technology transfer award when it was initially released. To receive an evaluation copy of Purge Spurge Version 4.0, contact Redlin by mail at USDA-ARS NPARL, Box 463, Sidney, MT 59270; by phone at 406-433-9427, by fax at 406-433-5038, or by e-mail at bredlin[at]


TEAM Leafy Spurge has inspired the Carter County Weed Board in Carter County, MT, to institute their own biocontrol field day after board members toured TLS demonstration plots in Ekalaka on June 27. They joined 32 area producers, weed supervisors and Extension agents for the event which featured tours of herbicide and biocontrol plots established by TLS over the past several years. The board members were so impressed by the success of the TLS insectaries, that they're planning their own flea beetle sweeping and distribution effort for 2002, according to TEAM Leafy Spurge Coordinator Chad Prosser, "They were just real excited about the results from the bugs." During the TLS tour, participants heard presentations from Prosser on herbicide and biocontrol trials he was conducting in the area and from biocontrol experts Bob Richard of USDA-APHIS and Don Mundal of NDSU-Fargo who discussed and demonstrated flea beetle collection and management techniques. Participants then collected flea beetles from the demonstration sites for redistribution to their own properties. TEAM Leafy Spurge is a five-year IPM research and demonstration project funded and led by the USDA-ARS in partnership with the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.

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


Biological Science Technician Deb Waters traveled to Torrington, Wyoming and Scotts Bluff, Nebraska June 5th through the 8th to collect live wheat stem sawfly specimens and look for new infested sites. The collection is part of a larger biological control research effort under the direction of Research Entomologist Tom Shanower to map sawfly infestations in the Northern Great Plains and identify parasites to be used in the biological control of the pest. While in Wyoming, Waters identified three new infestation sites in Goshen, Platte and Laramie counties. Waters identified several new infestation sites in Goshen, Platte and Laramie counties in Wyoming and in Scotsdale, Banner, Morrell and Kimball counties in Nebraska. Waters will return to all sites this fall to collect samples before the harvest. She and Shanower will be looking for additional parasitoids that could potentially serve as biocontrol agents for managing wheat stem sawfly. Two braconids are currently found in Montana, with a third agent, an ichneumonid, currently in quarantine in the APHIS Montana State University biocontainment facility in Bozeman, MT. The live sawfly specimens Waters collected on her trip, along with specimens from the Sidney area, have been sent to the USDA-ARS European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) in Montpellier, France for DNA study. Drs. Marie-Claude Bon and Kim Hoelmer of EBCL will compare DNA from several species of sawfly. This will help to target biological control by focusing foreign exploration efforts. The entire project is part of a multi-national, multi-organizational effort to improve biological control of wheat stem sawfly, a pest that causes more than $100 million a year in yield losses to northern Great Plains producers. Partners in the project include Montana State University - Bozeman, the European Biological Control Laboratory, the Sino-American Biological Control Laboratory and others.

(Deb Waters, 406-433-9491, dwaters[at]

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


Research Microbiologist Dr. TheCan Caesar has found that specific soil-aggregating basidiomycete fungi that serve as early biological indicators of soil quality in the temperate climate of the Northern Plains can also be used with tropical soils to aid in evaluating management practices. In an invited seminar at USDA-ARS-Pullman, WA on April 19, Caesar presented findings stemming from research underway in the sloping mountainous areas of North Vietnam. In conjunction with her associates, Caesar has assessed an upland rice slash-and-burn cultivation system in terms of soil-aggregating basidiomycete population, microbial communities and total organic C and N in the soil. Recent data indicated significant changes in the biota and soil organic C and N due to management practices (deforestation, slash-and-burn and intensive tillage), reflecting land degradation. In deeper (>20 cm), less disturbed soil, management had little effect on microbial populations and profiles. Dr. A. C. Kennedy, research leader of the Pullman lab, worked with Caesar, utilizing FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) analysis of the Vietnamese soils. Caesar's work is part of a collaborative project with CIRAD (Centre International de Recherches en Agriculture pour le Development, France), VASI (Vietnam Agriculture Science Institute, Vietnam) and USDA-ARS that began late last year.

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


Acting Laboratory Director Dr. Ernest S. Delfosse presented an invited Plenary address entitled "Management of Invasive Species: Integration of Science and Society" at this Congress on June 6. This presentation was very well-received, and prompted many subsequent discussions on the integration of science and society. Dr. Delfosse also took part in an invasive species tour during the Congress, which highlighted the environmental damage caused by invasive weeds and by the brown tree snake, which has decimated native bird populations. A large number of customers and stakeholders from the Pacific Region attended the meeting, and provided valuable input to the Laboratory's role, programs and direction on invasive species.

(Ernest Delfosse (Del), 406-433-9431, edelfosse[at]


A study by Research Ecologist, Dr. Gregory Sword was featured this April in the international German-language newspaper, Die Welt. The article summarized Sword's recent paper "Tasty on the outside, but toxic in the middle: Grasshopper regurgitation and gut-content mediated toxicity to a vertebrate predator" in the ecology journal, Oecologia. Sword demonstrated how regurgitation by grasshoppers following consumption of certain toxic plants allows the grasshoppers to survive predator attacks. His study provides an answer to the commonly asked question, "Why do grasshoppers spit tobacco juice?" These findings also demonstrate how specific, often overlooked, grasshopper-host plant interactions can impact local predator-prey interactions and influence grasshopper population regulation. Similar synopses have recently appeared in the British publication, New Scientist, and twice in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Sword was interviewed in late March by Science News magazine in connection with an article entitled "Touching legs turns shy locusts gregarious" published in the March 31 issue of the popular magazine. Science News contacted Sword for additional comments concerning a paper by Simspon et al. that had appeared in the March 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (Vol 98:3895-3897). This paper described how stimulation of mechanosensory hairs on the legs of locusts causes the insects to transform from solitary living individuals into gregarious, swarm-forming locusts. Sword is involved in the study of locust ecology and behavior, and the Science News article discussed some of his recent research on the expression of warning coloration in gregarious phase locusts. A photograph of gregarious and solitary phase Desert Locust juveniles provided by Sword accompanied the Science News item. Most recently, on June 20, Gregory Sword appeared via phone in a live on-air interview for a popular radio news show in New Zealand. Sword was interview by Kim Hill of the "Kim Hill Show" broadcast on Radio New Zealand daily from 9am to noon NZ time. He was asked to comment on the global locust and grasshopper situation, as serious outbreaks currently threaten China, central Asia, and the western US. Issues discussed included the causes of locust and grasshopper outbreaks, prevention versus crisis management, environmental and economic aspects of control, and the often-popularized use of ducks as locust biocontrol agents in China.

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


Research Ecologist Dr. Gregory Sword visited the University of Wyoming from April 16-18. Sword met with Dr. Jeffery Lockwood to discuss potential grasshopper management research collaborations as well as ongoing and future USDA/ARS-University of Wyoming technology transfer projects. Sword also delivered an invited seminar to the University of Wyoming, Department of Renewable Natural Resources entitled, "Is the Mormon cricket a katydid or a locust? What the ecophysiology of the Desert locust may teach us about the Mormon cricket." On April 19, Sword traveled to Basin, WY where he met with Alan Pomeroy, Supervisor, and Joel Lee, Asst. Supervisor, of the Big Horn County Weed & Pest Control District. They discussed the local Mormon cricket situation and collected juveniles for use in experiments to determine the ecological mechanisms that produce damaging Mormon cricket outbreaks. By understanding how and why these outbreaks occur, Sword's goal is to develop preventative rather than reactive Mormon cricket management strategies.

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


On May 14, Plant Pathologist Tony Caesar and Acting Lab Director Del Delfosse took part in the first "Marketplace for Kids" in Williston, ND, earning ARS an "Innovative Thinker Award" through their efforts. Approximately 700 regional 4th-6th graders attended this special event, whose planners designed it to encourage creative problem-solving and higher-level thinking, to develop cooperative entrepreneurial skills, and to increase awareness of career options. Delfosse presented a PowerPoint talk during each of the morning and afternoon sessions entitled "The World of Bugs." This inventive, interactive presentation focuses on the role of arthropods in the ecosystem, highlights entomology and ecology as career options, and as a grand finale, builds an insect out of volunteers from the audience. Caesar operated a very popular USDA-ARS booth, and distributed a lot of age-appropriate material to kids and teachers in attendance. The meeting was sponsored by Kent Conrad (U.S. Senator, North Dakota), Roger Johnson (North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture) and Wayne Sanstead (Superintendent of Public Instruction), who presented the ARS representatives with its "Innovative Thinker Award."

(Ernest Delfosse (Del), 406-433-9431, edelfosse[at]

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


Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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