Downy brome is an introduced Mediterranean annual grass that now dominates millions of hectares of western U.S. rangelands. The presence of this grass has eliminated many native species and accelerated wildfire cycles. The objective of this study was to identify soil additives that allowed germination but inhibited emergence of downy brome, while not affecting germination or emergence of the native perennial grass Hilaria jamesii. On the basis of data from previous studies, we focused on additives that altered the availability of soil nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Most water-soluble treatments inhibited downy brome germination and emergence. We attribute the inhibitory effects of these treatments to excessive salinity and ion-specific effects of the additives themselves. An exception to this was oxalic acid, which showed no effect. Most water-insoluble treatments had no effect in soils with high P but did have an effect in soils with low P. Zeolite was effective regardless of P level, probably due to the high amounts of Na+ it added to the soil solution. Most treatments at higher concentrations resulted in lower downy brome emergence rates in soils currently dominated by downy brome than in uninvaded (but theoretically invadable) Hilaria soils. This difference is possibly attributable to inherent differences in labile soil P. In Stifa soils, where Stipa spp. grow, but which are generally considered to be uninvadable by downy brome, additions of high amounts of N resulted in lower emergence. This may have been an effect of NH4+ interference with uptake of K or other cations or toxicity of high N. We also saw a positive relationship between downy brome emergence and pH in Stipa soils. Hilaria development parameters were not as susceptible to the treatments, regardless of concentration, as downy brome. Our results suggest that there are additions that may be effective management tools for inhibiting downy brome in calcareous soils, including (1) high salt applications, (2) K-reducing additions (e.g., Mg), and (3) P-reducing additions.
Additional publication details
Effects of soil amendments on germination and emergence of downy brome (Bromus tectorum) and Hilaria jamesii