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Issue: November/December 2005
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Northern PlainFacts.

Issue: November/December 2005

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:

ARS ScientistsParticipate in Tri-Societies Annual Meeting

ARS Scientists meet with Montana Tribal College Reps and State Legislators

Science Students Participate in Mormon Cricket Brownbagger

Montana ARS Lab Hosts Talk on Native Plant Restoration




Science Students Participate in Mormon Cricket Brownbagger

Photograph of Sidney Middle School 8th grade science students, NPARL staff, and visitors getting settled for Ecologist, Greg Sword, to give his brown bagger presentation entitled, Approximately two dozen 8th grade students attended a Friday brownbagger given by NPARL Ecologist Greg Sword Nov. 18 entitled "Mormon crickets and the people who chase them: A retrospective." The students, from teacher Mark Halvorsen's advanced science class at Sidney Middle School (Sidney, MT), were invited to participate because of their recent studies on Global Positioning System technology. Dr. Sword's presentation provided them a real-world peek into the application of GPS technology to a specific research project. Sword, a scientist with the lab's Pest Management Research Unit, discussed work he and his collaborators have done on Mormon cricket band formation and migration. The group's research was featured in a Brief Communications article in the Feb. 17th edition of "Nature" and showed that flightless Mormon crickets form large mobile groups, called migratory bands, as a means of protecting themselves from their predators. Similar processes have already been shown in herding animals, for example, but had not been previously demonstrated in migratory band-forming insects. The study involved using small radio transmitters to track individual insects within and outside large Mormon crickets bands which have been plaguing the western US the past three summers. The researchers found that 50-60% of the insects that left a band were killed by predators within two days of departure, while all of the insects remaining in the band survived. Working with Sword on the project were Dr. Pat Lorch of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Dr. Darryl Gwynne of the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

(Greg Sword, 406.433.9429, gsword[at]


ARS Scientists meet with Montana Tribal College Reps and State Legislators

NPARL Research Leaders Dr. Robert Evans (Agricultural Systems Research Unit) and Dr. Tom Shanower (Pest Management Research Unit) met Nov. 15 with a dozen Montana State Legislators and Tribal College representatives to discuss steps to implement Montana House Joint Resolution 11 passed during the state's last legislative session. The resolution urges "cooperation between and among state and federal agricultural research stations and tribal agricultural research programs to facilitate ongoing research, sharing of research scientists, and educational efforts in addressing critical issues concerning deleterious insects, pesticide use, livestock disease, noxious weeds and irrigated and dryland cropping systems." Participating tribal governments include those with the Fort Belknap, Fort Peck and Rocky Boy Reservations in Montana. While further planning sessions are needed to bring all parties together, representatives from the Sidney, MT ARS lab did agree to provide the three participating tribal college representatives with additional information on student employment opportunities at the Sidney ARS lab (and with ARS in general) and to explore new opportunities to train tribal faculty as well through special fellowships.

(Robert Evans, 406.433.9496, revans[at]
(Tom Shanower, 406.433.9405, tshanower[at]


ARS Scientists Participate in Tri-Societies Annual Meeting

Four scientists with NPARL's Agricultural Systems Research Unit participated in the 2005 ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT, Nov. 6-10. The yearly meetings of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) bring together 4,000+ people from 40 countries representing academia, government and private industry. NPARL scientists participating and the title of their posters were: Soil Scientist Jay Jabro, "Spatial Variability of Physical Properties in Lihen Sandy Loam Soil" (coauthors included Drs. Bart Stevens and Robert Evans also with the lab 's Ag Systems unit); Ecologist Andy Lenssen, "Preplant Weed Management and Planting Date Influence Barley Forage Yield and Quality;" Soil Scientist Jed Waddell, "Effect of Phosphorus Fertilization Rates on Field Pea Nitrogen Production" (coauthored with Dr. Lennsen), and Agronomist Upendra Sainju, "Carbon supply and storage in tilled and non-tilled soils as influenced by cover crops and nitrogen fertilization," (coathored with B.P. Singh, W.F. Whitehead and S. Wang, all with Fort Valley State Univ., GA).

(Robert Evans, 406.433.9496, revans[at]
(Jay Jabro, 406.433.9442, jjabro[at]
(Andy Lenssen, 406.433.9471, alenssen[at]
(Upendra Sainju, 406.433.9408, usainju[at]
(Bart Stevens, 406.433.9476, bstenens[at]
(Jed Waddell, 406.433.9402, jwaddell[at]


Montana ARS Lab Hosts Talk on Native Plant Restoration

NPARL hosted a special presentation Tuesday, Dec. 20 entitled "Research on leafy spurge: Toward ecological restoration" and presented by Research Wildlife Biologist Diane Larson. Dr. Larson works with the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, headquartered in Jamestown, ND, and studies the ecology of plant invasions in natural areas. She was visiting the Sidney ARS lab as a guest of NPARL Plant Pathologist Tony Caesar, with whom she is collaborating on studies of the effects of soil microorganisms on restoration of native plants following biological control of leafy spurge.

(Anthony Caesar, 406.433.9412, caesara[at]

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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