Post-fire management-scale trials of bacterial soil amendment MB906 show inconsistent control of invasive annual grasses

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Rangeland managers need tools to control invasive annual grasses, particularly following wildfire. We assessed responses of native and invasive/exotic grasses to the MB906 soil amendment containing live cultures of a purportedly weed-suppressive strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens (“WSB”). MB906 was applied alone and in combination with the pre-emergent herbicide imazapic on >3000 ha across three sagebrush-steppe landscapes burned several months prior. Replicate plots of each treatment type were established and plant cover was measured in the following three years. Cover of invasive-annual grasses (“IAG”) was not responsive to MB906 when all IAG species were considered (“IAG-All”). However, MB906 led to a 54% reduction in the IAG’s that were previously reported to be controlled by WSB (“IAG-Target”) in the second year following application (IAG-Target = cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum and medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-medusae; IAG-All also includes Vulpia myuros and Bromus arvensis). MB906 reduced the effectiveness of co-applied imazapic: Imazapic alone reduced IAG-All by 83% and 68% in years 1 and 2, respectively, while imazapic+MB906 reduced IAG-All by 48% and 38% in years 1 and 2, respectively, across all landscapes, and a similar response pattern was observed for IAG-Target. Perennial grass cover was unaffected by the treatments except where it increased 4-fold in response to imazapic applied at a high rate (0.140 kg a.i. ha−1) in one of the landscapes. Tank mixing MB906 and herbicide may have lessened the biological activity of the herbicide by altering the pH or mineral content of the spray solution or by direct metabolism of the herbicide by the bacteria. These results do not provide strong support for MB906 as a tool for annual grass control, though they suggest further investigation may be warranted.

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