Cheatgrass: Fire and Forage on the Range by James A. Young

By James A. Young

This can be a medical and old account of the cheatgrass invasion. it's a research of the plant which has replaced the ecology of thousands of acres of western rangeland.

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Example text

Some day next fall the rain would come and biological life would resume after the summer drought. July 23, 1939, was a different kind of day. 15 Usually, Great Basin thunderstorms build in late afternoon when maximum heating of the atmosphere occurs. Perhaps a lowpressure cell from the Pacific had slipped past the offshore high-pressure ridge, because by midmorning lighting was flashing and thunder rumbled through the valley. Hay hands cursed and raced to get another load to the stack before the rain started.

The fact that cheatgrass has persisted as a successful weed in cereal grain fields as farming has become more sophisticated strongly implies that its reproductive system is inherently adaptable. Simply put, cheatgrass is a survivor when it grows in contact with agricultural crops. The archaeologists working with Helbaek also identified the period during which the primitive residents of the site became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers by examining the morphological changes in the bones of sheep and goats that accompanied domestication and selective breeding and were found in the same hearths that preserved carbonized seeds of evolving wheats and weeds.

In contrast to the silver gray upland vegetation, the black greasewood growing on the lake plains is vividly green. These plants have roots that reach down to the salty groundwater. Plants adapted to use groundwater so salty that it would be toxic to normal species can afford the luxury of green leaves in a gray desert. To utilize such water, the plants must have some mechanism to shunt the salts aside once they enter the plant cells and eventually to dispose of the accumulations. The plants get rid of excess salts in the secretions of specialized glands or in deciduous leaves or fruits.

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