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Frequently Asked Questions
A: Take a digital photo and email an expert. This website lists several participating organizations that will be able to assist you in plant identification. Also, be sure to note what other species of mature grasses are in the area.
A: You should kill the plants to prevent them from seeding neighboring areas.
There are two main ways to eradicate buffelgrass effectively. If 50% or more of the plant is green, herbicides can be used to kill the plant. Herbicide only works on actively growing cells of the plant, thus it has to be green when you spray it. If less than 50% of the plant is green manual removal is the best method.
Chemical Control (Herbicide):
Manual Control (Pulling):
A: Reseeding areas cleared of buffelgrass is generally not necessary for several reasons. First, it is simply too dry in the Tucson Basin to achieve reliable emergence and survival from seed in most years unless supplemental irrigation is used. Native species typically establish episodically in rare years of above average rainfall. Secondly, native seed is not subject to the same purity and germination regulations as crop seed, and can often be contaminated with invasive species and other undesirables. Finally, seeds generally require good soil contact for successful emergence and usually this means some form of soil disturbance (such as tillage), which facilitates invasion by undesirable species like buffelgrass. Thus, by spreading native seeds from commercially available packets in newly cleared areas you may inadvertently be spreading other 'problem' species.
A: Maintaining a buffelgrass-free area requires the regular removal of non desirable plants. Establishing natives will not prevent re-invasion of invasive grasses. As long as a source population is around, it takes continued maintenance to keep the invasive grasses from re-infesting cleared areas.
If there are other reasons for establishing native vegetation (such as in a landscape setting), then container stock planted in the cool season and given supplemental water through the first summer is usually effective. This is the most reliable way to establish native plants to achieve appropriate densities and species palettes. Advice from local nurseries, your Cooperative Extension Agent, or the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum may also be helpful.
A: Maintain your area as buffelgrass-free, as if you were fighting a fire. Notify Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, City of Tucson Department of Neighborhood Resources, Arizona Department of Agriculture, or a similar regulatory entity that you are concerned with the neighboring environmental nuisance to your property.
A: No. The time you spend removing the individual seedheads from the plant is much better spent removing the plant itself.
A: When mature: plains bristlegrass (Setaria macrostachya), Pima pappusgrass (Pappophorum vaginatum), Arizona cottontop (Digitaria californica), and tanglehead (Heteropogon contortus)
When seedlings: annual panicum (Panicum spp.), Mexican sprangletop (Leptochloa filiformis)
A: Only if you vigilantly watch for (and quickly remove) seedlings in your compost area and in your garden afterwards! This is not a recommended disposal technique for buffelgrass, and you should only consider this disposal method if used with extreme caution!
A: Nothing that we can use as a Biocontrol at this time. There are no native grazers in the Sonoran Desert. Cattle will graze green buffelgrass, but have difficulty reaching it on steep slopes where the populations tend to start out. Goats will eat everything including the natives we want to protect. Jackrabbits have occasionally been seen gnawing on decadent culms and certain ant and rodent species may harvest the seed. None of these, however, will reduce or completely eliminate buffelgrass populations quickly enough to prevent infestations that increase the fire potential and associated risks to ecosystems and populated areas.
As far as insects and diseases go that use buffelgrass, there are a few. There is currently research being done on the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe grisea, which cause buffelgrass blight. This research is still very far away from being put into production. There is a spittlebug, Aeneolamia albofasciata, native in Sonora Mexico which feeds on buffelgrass. However, it is a generalist which feeds on several plant species, including some natives. Generalist species are extremely hard to get though the research and regulations needed to import for biocontrol. Since the spittlebug is native to the Sonoran Desert, it may find its way to the Tucson area on its own someday.
A: As long as you follow the label directions for applying the herbicide, dangers to wildlife and pets are minimal. If your pet accidently injests herbicides, check the label for specific instructions and notify poison control immediately.
A: You may purchase glyphosate-containing herbicides (Roundup® or the generic equivalent) and herbicide dyes at most hardware stores or at agricultural supply outlets. In Arizona, two such outlets are Fertizona and United Agri Products. Prices vary by product brand and concentration. A quality backpack sprayer can be purchased from forestry suppliers online or locally. Expect to pay ~$150.00 for a sprayer that will last more than one season.
A: There are no organic herbicides. All herbicides that are commercially available must go through rigorous testing and they have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for application rates provided on the herbicide label. It is always recommended that the labeling instructions be closely followed for all applications.
A: You can buy a digging bar at most hardware stores for about ~$15.00-20.00.
A: Yes. The most common and widespread are fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), African tick grass (Eragrostis echinochloidea), Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana), Natal grass (Melinis repens), Kleberg bluestem (Dichanthium annulatum), and soft-feather pappusgrass (Enneapogon cenchroides).
A: Buffelgrass is invasive in the subtropics all around the world, including Texas, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands to name a few.
A: The environmental and economic cost of inaction will dwarf the cost of active mitigation and control, even given that buffelgrass will never be completely eradicated.