Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.
Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama. A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success. Read more »
Ash logs undergoing vacuum treatment to kill emerald ash borer larvae. (U.S. Forest Service)
The shiny green one-half-inch-long, one-eighth-inch-wide emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. since the beetle’s discovery in 2002 in Detroit.
The real Ash trees comprise around seven percent of the trees in eastern U.S. forests. In urban areas, ash trees make up about 50 percent of street trees.
Ash trees are important both economically and ecologically. A wide array of products are made from ash wood, including baseball bats, tool handles, pool cues, furniture, cabinets, oars, and acoustic and electric guitars. Ash seeds are an important food source for birds, mice, squirrels, and other small mammals. Ash trees also provide essential habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, owls, and wood ducks. Read more »
The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.
Two years ago, the Nisqually Shellfish Farm south of Belfair, Wash. didn’t have a chance. Runoff from surrounding homes and dairy farms polluted Henderson Inlet, and the state declared the water unfit for raising shellfish for human consumption.
Worsening the problem, the place was overrun with an invasive species, the Japanese oyster drill, which feeds on and kills shellfish.
But water quality in the inlet, which flows into Puget Sound, is improving. Last year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began working with a nearby tribe and shellfish producers to monitor and remove the Japanese oyster drill. Read more »
NRCS Soil Conservationist Jessica Ludgate with Molokai Land Trust Executive Director Butch Haase monitor growth of native plants at Hui Ho'olana’s nursery. NRCS photo. Photo used with permission.
The Molokai Land Trust (MLT) is a partner of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in its efforts to restore native landscapes on the Island of Molokai in Hawaii. MLT and NRCS have partnered together on many projects, including the one highlighted in this post. Justin Fritscher, NRCS.
The endangered wedge-tailed shearwater and other at-risk plant and wildlife species find sanctuary in the coastal dune ecosystem of Hawaii. But like many native ecosystems in the state, this one suffers from the effects of human development and invasive plants and animals.
In an effort to restore ecosystems in the region, the Molokai Land Trust, or MLT, on the Island of Molokai, is working to restore and replant native vegetation and remove threats from invasive species. Read more »
Mike Liskey, right, refers to a site map while discussing ongoing conservation projects with Chase Milner, with the foundation, and Amy Roscher, with the Virginia Farming television program. NRCS photo.
Three out of every five Civil War battles were fought in Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that some of the work of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking place on hallowed ground. In Winchester, Va., the agency is partnering with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to protect historic and natural resources on part of the Third Winchester Battlefield.
The foundation has discovered that keeping these sites in agricultural use is an economical way to maintain them. They have worked with NRCS since 2009 to preserve and conserve Huntsberry Farm, a 209-acre farm where cattle still graze today.
NRCS District Conservationist Mike Liskey helped Chase Milner, the foundation’s manager of stewardship, with conservation planning to address their concerns about water quality and invasive species while protecting vital cultural resources. Read more »
A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.
I have the Great Lakes in my blood. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Huron, my sisters and I spent countless summer days playing in the water and running along the beaches of soft singing sand.
The Au Sable River, a clear blue ribbon trout stream, empties into Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich., my hometown. We canoed the river frequently, noticing eel-like lampreys undulate menacingly upstream in the water beneath our paddles.
We carefully maneuvered past sunken logs, remnants of the logging era, to avoid tipping and spilling into the water, imagining that this hideous creature with its huge circular, tooth-lined mouth would affix itself painfully, firmly and fatally onto our flesh! Read more »