Old World Bluestems workshop scheduled

Caucasian Bluestem is emerging as possibly the greatest long-term invasive threat to the natural integrity of native prairie rangelands and prairies in Kansas and the central Great Plains. It seems to be spreading from roadsides where it often gets its start on disturbed sites, possibly from contaminated seed mixtures provided by contractors or from mulch. Various observers have suggested that it is spread up and down the roadsides by mowing machinery, and haying of roadside presents the prospect that it may be unknowingly spread major distances to pastures wherever it is fed–maybe even by livestock producers who purchase hay harvested on roadside and have no idea that it includes seed of this highly invasive plant.

If it continues to overtake pastures (as it already has in some whole landscapes in western Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas), it will be much more difficult to control than Sericea Lespedeza because there are no available selective herbicides effective at eliminating it. Basically, the entire plant community within spots infested by Caucasian Bluestem has to be sprayed with herbicide cocktails, killing most or all of the other plants as well. As it spreads from roadsides, Corps of Engineers dams and levies (as is obvious in and near Manhattan), and other disturbed sites where it is expanding like a cancer, it will require astronomical investments by landowners and managers for herbicide control.

If undertaken soon the cost may only be collectively in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or single digit millions, but if it continues to spread the cost will likely be in the tens of millions of dollars–assuming it can be controlled on a regional basis (as within the Flint Hills or Smoky Hills). The other costs to landowners of expanding invasion will be a substantial reduction in forage value and livestock weight gains from now-productive native  rangelands. In most circumstances cattle do not like to eat it if they have native rangeland or other grass in the pasture as an alternative.

The Old World Bluestem workshop will be held on Friday, April 24 at the Ashland Community Center six miles south of Manhattan, located about a mile north of the Konza headquarters. The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., including morning informational presentations, lunch on site, and a field trip in the immediate vicinity in early afternoon. Registration (including the cost of lunch) is $10. View PDF regarding the details.

The workshop is co-sponsored by Audubon of Kansas, Kansas Wildlife Federation, Kansas Native Plant Society, Protect the Flint Hills, Kansas Land Trust, Grassland Heritage Foundation, Prairie Heritage Inc., and Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge.

For More Information, or to make a Reservation, contact Ron Klataske, Audubon of Kansas at [email protected] 785-537-4385 or personal cell phone 785-313-1138.