Buffelgrass Frequently Asked Questions
Take a digital photo and email an expert. This website lists several participating organizations that will be able to assist you in plant identification. Also, be sure to note what other species of mature grasses are in the area.
You should kill the plants to prevent them from seeding neighboring areas.
There are two main ways to eradicate buffelgrass effectively. If 50% or more of the plant is green, herbicides can be used to kill the plant. Herbicide only works on actively growing cells of the plant, thus it has to be green when you spray it. If less than 50% of the plant is green manual removal is the best method.
Chemical Control (Herbicide):
Plants must be green and actively growing for herbicides to be effective; this can happen anytime between February and November when rains are good. Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup®) can be very effective at killing buffelgrass. Follow the label directions; for very green plants a 2% solution works well, as the plants dry higher concentrations may be more effective. Spray enough chemical on the plants to coat all the leaves, but not so much that it runs off. Adding a dye to the chemical solution can help you to avoid spraying non-target species and ensure you do not miss plants or spray them twice.
Manual Control (Pulling):
Mowing is not an effective control method. It is always good to check for snakes before reaching into the grass to remove it from the soil. A digging tool is needed to loosen the soil around the plant so that it can be pulled up without leaving roots and leaf bases behind; if any part of the root ball is left behind it will resprout. Soil bars (a.k.a., caliche bars, digging bars, rock picks) work well for loosening plants from the soil. Wedge the soil bar point into soil at the base of the plant at an angle; push down on the soil bar to lever the plant out of the ground. A rock can be used as a fulcrum to provide more leverage. Shake dirt off of the roots and place in a heavy duty trash bag for disposal.
Place plants that are pulled up into heavy duty trash bags and place with other trash items to be collected by the city.
Reseeding areas cleared of buffelgrass is generally not necessary for several reasons. First, it is simply too dry in the Tucson Basin to achieve reliable emergence and survival from seed in most years unless supplemental irrigation is used. Native species typically establish episodically in rare years of above average rainfall. Secondly, native seed is not subject to the same purity and germination regulations as crop seed, and can often be contaminated with invasive species and other undesirables. Finally, seeds generally require good soil contact for successful emergence and usually this means some form of soil disturbance (such as tillage), which facilitates invasion by undesirable species like buffelgrass. Thus, by spreading native seeds from commercially available packets in newly cleared areas you may inadvertently be spreading other 'problem' species.
Maintaining a buffelgrass-free area requires the regular removal of non desirable plants. Establishing natives will not prevent re-invasion of invasive grasses. As long as a source population is around, it takes continued maintenance to keep the invasive grasses from re-infesting cleared areas. If there are other reasons for establishing native vegetation (such as in a landscape setting), then container stock planted in the cool season and given supplemental water through the first summer is usually effective. This is the most reliable way to establish native plants to achieve appropriate densities and species palettes. Advice from local nurseries, your Cooperative Extension Agent, or the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum may also be helpful.
Maintain your area as buffelgrass-free, as if you were fighting a fire. Notify Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, City of Tucson Department of Neighborhood Resources, Arizona Department of Agriculture, or a similar regulatory entity that you are concerned with the neighboring environmental nuisance to your property.
No. The time you spend removing the individual seedheads from the plant is much better spent removing the plant itself.
When mature: plains bristlegrass (Setaria macrostachya), Pima pappusgrass (Pappophorum vaginatum), Arizona cottontop (Digitaria californica), and tanglehead (Heteropogon contortus) When seedlings: annual panicum (Panicum spp.), Mexican sprangletop (Leptochloa filiformis)
Only if you vigilantly watch for (and quickly remove) seedlings in your compost area and in your garden afterwards! This is not a recommended disposal technique for buffelgrass, and you should only consider this disposal method if used with extreme caution!
Nope. There are no native grazers in the Sonoran Desert. Cattle will graze green buffelgrass, but have difficulty reaching it on steep slopes where the populations tend to start out. Jackrabbits have occasionally been seen gnawing on decadent culms and certain ant and rodent species may harvest the seed. None of these, however, will reduce or completely eliminate buffelgrass populations quickly enough to prevent infestations that increase the fire potential and associated risks to ecosystems and populated areas.
As long as you follow the label directions for applying the herbicide, dangers to wildlife and pets are minimal. If your pet accidently injests herbicides, check the label for specific instructions and notify poison control immediately.
You may purchase glyphosate-containing herbicides (Roundup® or the generic equivalent) and herbicide dyes at most hardware stores or at agricultural supply outlets. In Arizona, two such outlets are Fertizona and United Agri Products. Prices vary by product brand and concentration. A quality backpack sprayer can be purchased from forestry suppliers online or locally. Expect to pay ~$150.00 for a sprayer that will last more than one season.
There are no organic herbicides. All herbicides that are commercially available must go through rigorous testing and they have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for application rates provided on the herbicide label. It is always recommended that the labeling instructions be closely followed for all applications.
You can buy a digging bar at most hardware stores for about ~$15.00-20.00.
Yes. The most common and widespread are fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), African tick grass (Eragrostis echinochloidea), Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana), Natal grass (Melinis repens), Kleberg bluestem (Dichanthium annulatum), and soft-feather pappusgrass (Enneapogon cenchroides).
Buffelgrass is invasive in the subtropics all around the world, including Texas, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands to name a few.
The environmental and economic cost of inaction will dwarf the cost of active mitigation and control, even given that buffelgrass will never be completely eradicated.