Researchers say grass wages chemical warfare
An invasive grass that is showing up in Austin wages a chemical campaign to push out native species, per new research from the University of Texas.
The big picture: Guinea grass, introduced more than a century ago to South Texas from Africa to help feed cattle, uses a combination of crowding that blocks out light from growing seedlings and what amounts to chemical warfare in creating soil that is toxic to native plants, per a new study in the journal Ecosphere.
Why it matters: The grass raises the risk of more frequent, high-intensity wildfires.
Details: Guinea grass toxins include 2-hydroxyphenylacetic acid, used by plants to suppress their competitors.
What they're saying: "Guinea grass escaped its natural enemies and stressors in Africa," said Robert Plowes, a research scientist and author on the paper. "Its seeds are also very good at sticking to trucks, ranch equipment and roadside mowers, so it spreads easily."
What we're watching: The researchers, who conducted work in Austin's Brackenridge Field Laboratory, are studying whether the grass can be kept in check with soil restoration and other old-school methods of range management.
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