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Issue: September/November 2001
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Northern PlainFacts.Northern PlainFacts image extension.

Issue: September/November 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

Sneak Preview of New Facility Offered

NPARL Addresses Security Issues

Researchers Study Fire/Grazing Effects on Hoppers

Remote Sensing of Saltcedar Conducted

Grape Disease Also Focus of Remote Sensing Study

Researcher Trained in DNA Microarray

Rust Samples Collected for Spurge Research

Scientists Participate in Agronomy Meeting

Hopper Research Featured in Kids' Magazine

Ecologist Collects Hoppers in Texas

Entomologist Receives Sugar Beet Grant

Marigold, Root Maggot Research Funded

New CD Available from TEAM Leafy Spurge






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


NDSU Extension Service Irrigator's Workshops

December 11, 2001 - Grand Forks, North Dakota

December 13, 2001 - Carrington Research Extension Center

For more information: Tom Scherer, tscherer[at]


MonDak Value Added Ag Conference

December 13, 2001

Ernie French Center (Williston Research Extension Center)

Williston, North Dakota

For more information: Chet Hill, 701-774-4315


North Dakota Weed Control Association Meeting

January 8-10, 2002

Fargo, North Dakota


MonDak Ag Days

January 11-12, 2002

Sidney, Montana


Montana Weed Control Association Meeting

January 15-17, 2002

Great Falls, Montana


First International Symposium on Arthropod Biological Control Rescheduled to January 13-18, 2002

Honolulu, Hawaii

For more information:


NPARL customers and stakeholders are invited to a "sneak preview" of the site's new lab office complex during MonDak Ag Days in Sidney, MT, Jan. 11-12, 2002. All interested parties are invited to tour the building site - not yet completed, but enclosed and heated to a toasty 50 degrees - at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12. The tour is part of an hour-long session designed to reformulate and strengthen the lab's Focus Group program. Participants attending Ag Days events Friday will get an update of the current research being conducted at NPARL; this subsequent on-site gathering will allow those same individuals input into future efforts. While everyone is invited to offer suggestions, NPARL officials hope to enlist the aid of approximately a dozen to two dozen committed individuals to serve on a reformulated Focus Group designed to more thoroughly examine and identify agricultural research needs for the Northern Plains region. If you are interested in participating or would like more information, contact Tom Shanower or Robert Evans at 406-433-2020.  


In light of the events of September 11 and the ensuing anthrax investigations, NPARL has undertaken added measures to ensure the safety and security of its employees and the general public. Lab officials recently invited Local Emergency Planning Committee personnel to tour the site and NPARL safety officer Jackie Couture continues to work closely with county disaster officials. But while officials remain vigilant, they also note that the Sidney, MT facility has a Security Level One rating (four is the highest), meaning research conducted at the site doesn't pose a threat to people living or working in the area or to the environment. "There are no human health issues, no human pathogens at all, at this facility," Couture noted. "There is also no environmental threat posed by the research being done here." While NPARL's low security rating could change once the proposed biocontainment facility planned for the site is built, that will not happen for at least another several years. In the meantime, anyone with additional safety or security concerns is invited to discuss them with NPARL officials. "Also, if anyone wants to tour the site, just let us know and we can arrange it," Couture noted.

(Jackie Couture, 406-433-9422, jcouture[at]


Research Entomologist David Branson and Research Ecologist Greg Sword have recently been awarded a U.S. Forest Service grant to study the effects of fire and livestock grazing on grasshopper population dynamics in the Northern Great Plains. The five-year cooperative project conducted on the Forest Service's Little Missouri National Grassland is expected to shed light on the direct effects of both fire and grazing management on grasshopper populations, as well as provide insight on grassland management techniques designed to reduce grasshopper problems in the event of fire. Although fire is known to affect grasshopper population dynamics in grassland ecosystems, neither its direct effects nor its potential interactions with different grazing management strategies have been previously studied in the Northern Great Plains.

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

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


Research Ecologist Dr. Gerald Anderson led a remote sensing effort Sept. 8-16 targeting saltcedar (Tamarix) infestation sites in five Western states (WY, UT, NV, CO and CA). Anderson and his fellow researchers were able to collect imagery from sites in three states (UT, NV and CA) before the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, DC grounded the effort. The remote sensing endeavor is part of a larger $3 million project, funded through a CSREES National Research Initiative Competitive Grant, to look for new biologically based control methods for the area wide management of saltcedar and two other invasive weeds found in the western U.S., giant reed (Arundo) and yellow starthistle (Centaurea). The remote sensing information collected by Anderson will be used to both assess the extent and spread of saltcedar in the Western states and to monitor the impact of biological control agents introduced to help control it. Currently saltcedar is spreading rapidly along rivers and streams and in riparian areas, making it difficult to control by traditional means. The weed clogs rivers, displaces native willows and threatens the primary habitat of the willow flycatcher. Participants in the grant program include the Saltcedar Consortium made up of over 30 federal, state and private groups, with principal investigators from USDA-ARS in California and Texas and the Universities of California (at Berkeley), Wyoming (at Laramie), and Texas A&M (at College Station).

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

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


Research Ecologist Dr. Gerald Anderson led a second remote sensing effort in Bakersfield, CA, Sept. 15 targeting vineyards infected with Pierce's disease. The disease, transmitted to grapes by the glassy wing sharpshooter, stresses the vines, making them unproductive and a source of infection for neighboring plants and vineyards. During the flyover, Anderson's crew collected three different spatial and multiple spectral resolutions of the target vineyards. The information will be used to help determine whether remote sensing techniques can identify infected vines early enough in the season to allow for their removal before the disease is spread and to help assess the effectiveness of various management techniques. The study is being funded by USDA-APHIS-PPQ in Mission, Texas and includes cooperators from USDA-ARS and Boeing SVS, Inc. of Albuquerque, NM.

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


Research plant pathologist Robert T. Lartey participated in a two-week intensive training program on DNA microarray in Tucson, Arizona Oct. 1-14 with Dr. David W. Galbraith of the University of Arizona. DNA microarray technology is an emerging field that allows scientists to study the "expressions," or activity, of thousands of genes in a single experiment, where previously they could study only one at a time. The new technology promises to dramatically accelerate genetic analysis much like microprocessors have sped up computation. Because of the number of gene expressions that can be isolated in a single experiment, the microarray technology not only promises to help researchers better understand diseases, but can also lead to the identification of new genes and gene expressions not previously known. Dr. Lartey - who is examining the use of soil-inhabiting fungal antagonists as biological control agents for Cercospora leaf spot in sugar beets - will use the new technology to conduct detailed genetic analyses of the interaction between the beet plant and Cercospora beticola, the foliar pathogen and causal agent of Cercospora leaf spot. Similarly, the new technology will also allow detailed analyses of the interaction between C. beticola and the previously identified fungal antagonists, Trichoderma harzianum, Trichoderma aureoviride and Laetisaria arvalis .

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


Research plant pathologist Anthony Caesar traveled to Europe Sept. 10 through the 21st to meet with fellow scientists at the USDA / ARS - European Biological Control Lab in Montpellier, France and to collect Uromyces scutellatus samples at Austrian sites he had previously mapped in 1992 and 1995. Plans to visit additional collection sites in Hungary were cancelled due to the Sept. 11th terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, DC. U. scutellatus is a rust of the noxious weed leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula. Dr. Caesar is studying U. scutellatus as a potential biocontrol agent for that weed. The samples collected in Austria are being taken to the Montana State University - Bozeman quarantine facility for further study to help determine at what developmental stage the rust will successfully infect leafy spurge in the U.S.. While at the EBCL Laboratory in Montpellier, Dr. Caesar met with Lab Director Dr. Paul C. (Chuck) Quimby and research plant pathologist Dr. Tim Widmer regarding joint ongoing and future research efforts. In particular, he discussed potential collaborations on the biological control of whitetop, also known as hoary cress, ( Brassicaceae: Cardaria draba (L.) Dsv.) using pathogens.

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


Research Microbiologist TheCan Caesar and Soil Scientist Verlan Cochran traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina Oct. 21-25 to participate in the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy. The meeting was a joint session with the Soil Science Society of America and the Crop Science Society of America. Caesar and Cochran both presented posters at the meeting. Caesar's offering was entitled "Soil-aggregating basidiomycetes in the rhizosphere of grasses under two grazing management systems," while Cochran's was entitled "Effects of tillage and crop residue management on soil quality factors in subarctic soil." Caesar's poster discussed the effects of different grazing rotations on microbial communities; herbage biomass and livestock performance, and grasshopper densities. Collaborators on the project include NPARL Entomologist David Branson and Ecologist Gerald Anderson, as well as L.L. Manske of North Dakota State University and J.D. Reeder with USDA-ARS in Fort Collins, Colorado. Cochran's work looked at the long-term effects of tillage and straw management on various Alaskan soil quality factors and includes collaborators S.D. Sparrow from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and TheCan Caesar of NPARL.

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

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


A study by Research Ecologist Greg Sword on a novel grasshopper defense system was featured in the September 17th "Food" issue of "Science World," a Scholastic publication targeting middle school students. The item describes Sword's study of the grasshopper species Schistocerca emarginata and its penchant for eating foul-smelling skunk bush. Sword discovered that predators, such as the green anole lizard, attempting to dine on these particular grasshoppers got a nasty surprise. The victim would vomit its skunk bush diet whenever the predator tried to bite it. The taste would be so disgusting that the predator would immediately spit out its intended meal, still alive! The news item also describes Sword's own daring taste test, dutifully cautioning its young readers "not to try this at home." His results? Grasshoppers that ate skunk bush tasted "gross," but those fed a diet of romaine lettuce for a day were "fine." The lizards agreed, readily downing the lettuce eaters. Sword's original study was first published in the ecology journal, "Oecologia."

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


Research Ecologist Greg Sword traveled throughout Texas Oct. 19-26 to collect grasshoppers for establishment of a new NPARL lab colony needed to replace another lost to infection. He was joined by Dan Hahn, a University of Arizona graduate student, and Dr. Fabbrizzio Gabbiani, a neurologist at Baylor Medical School in Houston, Texas. The three men work cooperatively to keep grasshopper lab colonies going and occasionally to exchange genetic material. Dr. Sword is using the colonies in his research to study aspects of grasshopper ecology, with particular emphasis on host plant use and locust-like behavioral changes. In addition to the collection project, Dr. Sword also prepared and shipped a 100-specimen, pinned grasshopper collection from the University of Texas to NPARL. The collection will be used for future molecular phylogenetic analyses.

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


Dr. Stefan Jaronski, Research Entomologist at USDA ARS NPARL, Drs. Barry Jacobsen and Nina Zidack at the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, have been funded by the National Research Initiatives Program of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) to pursue a "Biologically-based Pest Management for Sugarbeet Pathogens and Root Maggot." Dr. Jaronski's research concerns the development of a mycoinsecticide for control of sugarbeet root maggot, centered on the entomopathogenic fungi, Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana. Several strains of the two fungi have been commercialized for use against other insects in the United States in recent years. His work is being conducted both at the USDA lab in Sidney MT, and in eastern North Dakota with Dr. Larry Campbell, USDA Fargo, and Dr. Mark Boetel, North Dakota State University. Dr. Jacobsen has developed several bacterial agents active against the root rot pathogens and Cercospora Leaf Spot, with an aim of replacing or reducing chemical fungicide use. Their joint research will evaluate the interaction of the two groups of agents with each other, as well as the soil ecology of the mycoinsecticidal fungi. The grant is for the next two years with a third year contingent upon progress. This grant follows on the heels of parallel funding to the group from the CSREES Western Regional IPM Project.

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


Dr. Florence Dunkel of the Department of Entomology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT and Dr. Stefan Jaronski, Research Entomologist at USDA ARS NPARL have received funding from the National Research Initiatives Program of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) to pursue a project, "Integration of Marigold, Tagetes minuta, into organic sugarbeet cropping systems for management of nematodes and root maggots." Jaronski is researching the development of fungal biocontrols of sugarbeet root maggot at the USDA station in Sidney MT. Dr. Dunkel has demonstrated that exudates or essential oils of the Mexican marigold is a feasible protective agent against nematodes, especially in organic agriculture. Their joint research will evaluate the interaction of Tagetes extracts with Jaronski's biocontrol fungi, as well as determine if there is any direct efficacy of the plant material for the sugarbeet root maggot. The grant is for 2001-2003 with an additional year contingent upon progress.

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


The latest version of the award-winning "Purge Spurge: Leafy Spurge Database" CD-ROM has arrived! This extensive CD, produced by TEAM Leafy Spurge, contains more than 900 journal articles, Extension publications, symposium proceedings, scientific abstracts and other resources pertaining to research and management of the noxious weed leafy spurge. The CD is free and can be ordered from NPARL by writing, calling, faxing, or e-mailing Beth Redlin at USDA-ARS NPARL, Box 463, Sidney, MT 59270; phone 406-433-9427; fax 406-433-5038, or e-mail bredlin[at]


Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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