The University of Arizona

Comparison of Herbicides for Reducing Annual Grass Emergence in Two Great Basin Soils

Merilynn C. Hirsch, Thomas A. Monaco, Christopher A. Call, Corey V. Ransom


Reducing seed germination and seedling emergence of downy brome (Bromus tectorum L.) improves the success of revegetating degraded shrubland ecosystems. While pre-emergence herbicides can potentially reduce these two processes, their impact on germination and emergence of downy brome and revegetation species in semiarid ecosystems is poorly understood and has not
been comprehensively studied in soils with potentially contrasting herbicide bioavailability (i.e., residual plant activity). We designed a greenhouse experiment to evaluate the effects two pre-emergence acetolactate synthase–inhibiting herbicides (rimsulfuron and imazapic) on germination and emergence of downy brome and two revegetation grass species (crested wheatgrass [Agropyron cristatum {L.} Gaertn.] and bottlebrush squirreltail [Elymus elymoides {Raf.} Swezey]) that were grown in representative soils from salt desert and sagebrush shrublands. Pre-emergence herbicides significantly (P,0.05) reduced seedling emergence and biomass production of downy brome and crested wheatgrass and increased mortality more so in sagebrush compared to salt desert soil, suggesting that these common Great Basin soils fundamentally differ in herbicide bioavailability. Also, germination and emergence of the two highly responsive species (crested wheatgrass and downy brome) were clearly more impacted by rimsulfuron than imazapic. We discuss these results in terms of how the specific soil physiochemical properties influence herbicide adsorption and leaching. Our results shed new light on the relative performance of these two promising herbicides and the importance of considering soil properties when applying pre-emergence herbicides to reduce germination and emergence of invasive annual grasses and create suitable seedbed conditions for revegetation.

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