Cheat Grass - Bromus tectorum tectorum

Common Name: 
Cheat Grass
Family: 
Poaceae
Genus: 
Bromus tectorum
Species: 
tectorum

Bromus tectorum, known as drooping brome or cheat grass, is a grass native to Europe, southwestern Asia and northern Africa, but has become invasive in many other areas.

In the US, it grows on rangelands, pastures, prairies, fields, waste areas, eroded sites, and roadsides. It is much reviled by ranchers and land managers. Drooping brome seeds are also a critical portion of the diet of the chukar and grey partridge which have been introduced to the US. Intensive sheep browsing of cheatgrass in early spring has been used as a fire fuels reduction strategy in the hills adjacent to Carson City, Nevada.

The presence of biological soil crusts may slow the establishment of Bromus.

Drooping brome has demonstrated a quantitative and qualitative response to recent and near-term changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Laboratory experiments have shown that above-ground biomass increased 1.5–2.7 gram per plant for every 10 part per million (ppm) increase above the 270 ppm pre-industrial baseline. On the qualitative side, rising carbon dioxide decreased the digestibility and potential decomposition of drooping brome. In addition to stimulation of biomass, rising carbon dioxide may also increase the above ground retention of drooping brome biomass by decreasing removal by animals or bacteria. Ongoing increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide may contribute significantly to drooping brome productivity and fuel load with subsequent effects on wildfire frequency and intensity.

The seeds are dispersed by wind, small rodents, or attachment to animal fur, within a week of maturity. They are also moved as a contaminant in hay, grain, straw, and machinery. It is an abundant seed producer, with a potential in excess of 300 seeds per plant; seed production per plant is dependent on plant density. Under optimal conditions, it may produce 450 kg of seed per hectare (400 pounds per acre) with about 330,000 seeds/kg (150,000 seeds/pound).

The seeds maintain high viability in dry storage, lasting over 11 years. In the field, under buried conditions, seeds will lose their viability in 2–5 years. The primary limit to germination is inadequate moisture. Seeds can withstand high soil temperatures. Germination is best in the dark or in diffuse light. They germinate most quickly when covered with soil, but do not need to be in contact with bare soil; some leaf litter cover will generally improve germination and establishment of seedlings. Seedlings emerge rapidly from the top 2.5 cm (1") of soil, and a few plants emerge from depths of 8 cm (3"), but not from seeds 10 cm (4") below the surface.

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