Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bioenergy crops have potential as renewable fuel source—and as invasive species

Weed Science Society of America

Invasive Plant Science and Management — Cultivation of large grasses for bioenergy production is gaining interest as a renewable fuel source. A sterile hybrid, giant miscanthus, is a promising bioenergy crop that, unfortunately, carries a high establishment cost for growers. A new seed-bearing line may have economic benefits, but it also bears consequences as an invasive species if it escapes cultivation.

The article “The Relative Risk of Invasion: Evaluation of Miscanthus × giganteus Seed Establishment,” reports the results of field tests on the fertile “PowerCrane” line of giant miscanthus. There is a dearth of research on the ability of such newly developed fertile crops to escape cultivation. Such research can identify susceptible habitats and help advance management plans in preparation for widespread commercialization.

Giant miscanthus produces abundant biomass, has few pests, and requires few inputs after establishment. While these traits make it an excellent bioenergy crop, they are also traits of invasive species. This species has the ability to produce up to 1 billion spikelets per acre per year that can disperse seed into the wind.

In this study, seedling establishment was evaluated in seven habitats: no-till agricultural field, agricultural field edge, forest understory, forest edge, water’s edge, pasture, and roadside. Experiments were conducted at three sites in the southeastern United States—the area most likely to see increased bioenergy production due to its ideal growing conditions.

Giant miscanthus seedlings emerged in roadside and forest edge habitats at all study sites, and early in the growing season, there were more giant miscanthus seedlings in the agricultural field than any of the other species. Despite its potential, in these tests giant miscanthus experienced high seedling mortality—99.9 percent overall. However, identification of even a small population of an escaped species at an early stage can be critical for effective eradication. A 99.9 percent mortality rate in spikelets per acre leaves 1 million spikelets in the seed bank! This study looks at the early establishment phase of invasion, which is only part of the process. With growing demand and federal mandates, bioenergy production is on the increase, and evaluation of these crops’ potential as invasive species will be essential for management.

Full text of the article “The Relative Risk of Invasion: Evaluation of Miscanthus × giganteus Seed Establishment,” Invasive Plant Science and Management, Vol. 7, No. 1, January-March 2014, is now available.


About Invasive Plant Science and Management

Invasive Plant Science and Management is a broad-based journal that focuses on invasive plant species. It is published by the Weed Science Society of America, a non-profit professional society that promotes research, education, and extension outreach activities related to weeds; provides science-based information to the public and policy makers; and fosters awareness of weeds and their impacts on managed and natural ecosystems. For more information, visit

Monday, April 7, 2014

Keep an eye out for invasive plants this spring!

Springtime provides a great opportunity to find and report several invasive species.  Since many of our native trees and shrubs have not yet started to leaf out, invasive species with either early leaf growth of early flowering can be easily found. 

Here in Illinois, we have two websites where people can both view invasive species distribution maps and contribute new reports.  In the Chicago region, the New Invaders Watch Program tracks invasive species that are moving in to that region.  Reports of the target species can be entered at  The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS, developed by the University of Georgia, covers the entire state and all invasive plant species.  This system has thousands of records for many different invasive plant occurrences in Illinois.  Even with all of these records, the maps produced on this site can be incomplete, especially for new invaders.  Adding your observations can help us have a more accurate picture of the distribution of invasive species and will aid in planning, prioritizing and controlling species. 

Here are three species that are particularly visible in early spring.

Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

This species, often better known by the name of one of its ornamental varieties, Bradford pear, is starting to be found escaping throughout Illinois.  Because it grows in open areas and flowers much earlier than most other shrubs, it is extremely easliy found at this time of year.  Look for patches of white flowering shrubs or small trees along roadways, in old fields and in other distubed areas across the state.  To learn more about Callery pear, go to or

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna or Ranunculus ficaria)

This small spring empheral forb is being found in bottomland woods in northern Illinois and can impact our native wildflowers.  The showy yellow flowers often lead people into thinking this is a desirable native species, but don't let its looks fool you, it is a serious invader that we do not yet have a clear idea of where it is invading in Illinois.  This is a species that we definitely want more information on any infestations you know about.  To learn more about lesser celandine, go to

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

This is no new invader!  Unfortunately garlic mustard is widespread throughout Illinois.  If you do not yet have it on your land, then you need to make every effort to keep it that way!  Scouting your woods in the early spring is the best way to find new infestations of garlic mustard and will allow you to take quick action before new seeds are produced in late spring.  To learn more about garlic mustard, go to or

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New IDNR Rule Restricts Transportation, Release and Harvest of Feral Swine

Rule will aid management of destructive animals

Chris Young

SPRINGFIELD, IL – A new administrative rule regulating the release, transportation, and harvest of feral swine (wild hogs) in Illinois is now in effect. Hunters should be aware they will only be allowed to harvest feral swine during Illinois’ firearm deer seasons. The new rule, approved by the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), is designed to help the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) better address the management of feral swine and deter those who would seek to establish and promote hunting of feral swine in Illinois.

“Feral swine are detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat and can spread disease. This new rule will make it possible for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to more effectively control the spread of feral swine in Illinois,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Through our collaborative efforts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are well on our way to eliminating feral swine from our landscape.”

The IDNR, in cooperation with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program, have worked closely with dozens of landowners in Effingham, Clay, Fayette, and Marion Counties for the past three years to eliminate a population of invasive feral swine causing severe damage to wildlife habitat, wetlands, and agricultural crops in the region. The IDNR and Wildlife Services have also worked with a multitude of landowners to reduce a population of feral swine in Fulton County. The population, once estimated to exceed 400 individuals, is down to less than approximately 20 animals. IDNR and USDA biologists are hopeful this population can be completely eliminated within the next several months.

The new rule (17 Ill. Adm. Code 700 – Wild Swine) makes it illegal to hunt or shoot feral swine outside of the firearm, muzzleloader, late-winter antlerless, and CWD deer seasons. Hunters must be legally hunting deer during those seasons, and if they see a wild hog, they will be able to shoot it.

Limiting the circumstances under which a hunter can shoot feral swine will also deter those who would bring feral swine into Illinois illegally to promote hunting of wild hogs. By restricting the release and harvest of feral swine, IDNR hopes to prevent the culture of hunting wild hogs from developing, as the costs of having these damaging animals far outweighs the benefits. The new rule also is intended to prevent trespassing. Since feral swine could be shot year round before implementation of the new rule, some were tempted to trespass on private property in pursuit of wild hogs.

“By itself, hunting of feral swine is not an effective method of control,” said Mark Alessi, assistant chief of the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources. “Shooting tends to scatter the remaining individuals, and this makes it very difficult for our biologists to track the pigs and impedes our efforts to trap and remove multiple animals at once. We support the hunters who are able to shoot feral swine during the deer seasons, and we ask that they inform us when they shoot one. We have conducted a scientific survey of landowners, and the majority of landowners support our management efforts.”

Feral swine (Sus scrofa) originated from varieties of introduced domestic swine, Eurasian wild boar, and their hybrids, and are currently found in Illinois. Feral swine cause more than $1.5 billion annually in damage and management costs nationwide. Feral swine have a high reproduction rate, eat just about anything they can find, and are extremely smart. They can produce two litters a year, with up to 10 piglets each time. They have no natural predators, aside from humans, in Illinois. Their diet and destructive rooting behaviors are detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Under the new rule, feral swine can be taken legally in the following manners in Illinois:

1. Hunters, who are legally deer hunting during firearm deer seasons, will be able to legally shoot feral swine. They will also be required to report the harvest of feral swine during firearm deer seasons to the IDNR. Hunters are asked to report feral swine harvest to Doug Dufford, IDNR Wildlife Disease and Invasive Animals Program Manager, at (815) 369-2414. Hunters who legally harvest feral swine are able to keep the meat if they desire.

2. It is now illegal to guide or be an outfitter for feral swine hunting. It is also illegal to hunt feral swine in an enclosure.

3. Landowners are required to obtain a nuisance wildlife permit if they see feral swine on their property and want to personally remove the swine outside of the “gun” deer seasons, or they can contact IDNR staff for assistance in removing feral swine at no charge to the landowner.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Research Published - Excessive deer populations facilitate garlic mustard invasion

Just last week we posted on this blog about a recent article about deer overabundance impacting aboveground vegetation and seed bank and how they influences the forest community.  (See original post HERE).

Now, new research has been published that further investigates the specific relationship between deer populations and invasion by garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata.  In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol. 111, no.12), Kalisz et. al  published an article titled "In a long-term experimental demography study, excluding ungulates reversed invader's explosive population growth rate and restored natives."  In this article, the authors argue that successful garlic mustard invasion is dependent upon high deer populations.

From a release about the article on Science Daily -
To study the effect of rampant deer on trillium and garlic mustard populations, the researchers established multiple 196-square-meter plots in the forest. Half were fenced to exclude deer. Years of observation and hours of statistical analysis later, the team found that in plots where deer were excluded, the trillium population is increasing, and the garlic mustard population is trending toward zero.  "This demonstrates that the high population growth rate of the invader is caused by the high abundance of deer," says Susan Kalisz, professor of evolutionary ecology in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Biological Sciences and principal investigator of the study. This effect is reversible with deer exclusion.
The full research article can be found here:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forest Health Programs of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Applying an Exotic Plant Strike Team Strategy to Improve Forest Health in Northwest Illinois

Jeff Horn, Director of Land Stewardship
Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation

Invasive species cost the United States more than $120 billion in damages every year. Invasive plants species are plants brought here from elsewhere in the world that do not have natural enemies in the areas they are invading. This allows invasive plant species to spread rapidly through landscapes. This rapid spread can cause enormous damage to agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and outdoor recreation.

With funding from the USDA Forest Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and in cooperation with Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a two-person Strike Team was formed to work year-round on controlling and monitoring invasive plant species in Northwest Illinois. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) helped initiate the setup of this team.

Report available HERE
 In February of 2013 the Northwest Illinois Strike Team (NWST) began controlling and monitoring of invasive plant species in State designated nature preserves, natural areas, and lands adjacent to natural areas in six northwest Illinois counties. The NWST used mechanical methods, prescribed fire, and herbicide application to suppress established invasive weed populations and prevent future populations from establishing. The NWST prevents further spread of invasive weed populations into natural areas by responding early to new infestations. The goals of the NWST include: managing existing invasive species populations, preventing the spread of invasive species to natural areas, and re-establish native plant communities to restore health to these natural areas. Thus far, they have treated over 650 acres of invasive plants in natural areas.

The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation’s mission is to conserve and enhance natural wildlife habitat, cultural heritage, scenic vistas, and the agricultural character of Jo Daviess County and the surrounding area for future generations. JDCF owns several beautiful and unique preserves all of which are open to the public for hiking, wildlife viewing, and picnicking. For more information, visit their office at 126 N Main Street in Elizabeth, IL, call (815) 858-9100, or find them online at


Monday, March 10, 2014

New Research Published - Deer proliferation disrupts a forest's natural growth

An article from DiTommaso et. al was recently published in the Journal PLOS ONE.  This research, titled 'Deer Browsing Delays Succession by Altering Aboveground Vegetation and Belowground Seed Banks' indicates that expanding deer populations can stall the development of forests and promote the growth of invasive plants. 

From a release about the article on Science Daily - (

Deer typically prefer to eat native, woody plants and rebuff invasive species. The study showed that when deer consume native plants, the non-native species are left to flourish, dropping seed in the soil.
"It's obvious that the deer are affecting the above-ground species, but it's like an iceberg. There are major effects below the soil surface. We are seeing a divergence of seeds contained within the soil from what should be there," says DiTommaso. "We are not seeing the seeds of woody plants. Instead, we're seeing an escalation of non-native seed and the virtual elimination of woody plant seeds."
See the full research article here:

Monday, March 3, 2014

MIPN/OIPC Conference presentations available online

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the Ohio Invasive Plant Council jointly organized an invasive plant symposium as part of the Northcentral Weed Science Society meeting inb December.  Many of the presentations given at this symposium are now available on the MIPN website:

Session topics included:
  • New Tools and Technology for Invasive Species Reporting and Information Sharing
  • Strategies for Outreach on Invasive Ornamental Plants
  • Invasive Plant Management
  • Assessing Invasiveness of Invasive Plants
  • Asian Bush Honeysuckle: Recent Advances in Research and Control