Invasive grass is changing the prairie, maybe forever

Old World Bluestem is turning prairies into monocultures, crowding out other species at an alarming rate.

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September 3, 2021 - 11:05 AM

Range scientist Keith Harmoney inspects a research plot that’s being overtaken by Old World bluestem at the K-State agricultural center in Hays. (DAVID CONDOS/KANSAS NEWS SERVICE)

HAYS, Kansas — Keith Harmoney crouches down in a pale yellow field outside his office. He pushes back a cluster of tightly packed two-foot-tall grass, revealing the ground underneath.

In a typical native Kansas grassland, he’d expect to find roughly a dozen different plant species in the square foot of earth between his boots.

“Here, all we see — basically for 10, 11, 12 yards — is just one single species,” Harmoney said. “That’s Old World bluestem.”

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