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Can you afford not to treat invasive annual grasses on your ranch?

Economic report details financial gains, losses to combat cheatgrass, invasive annuals in Eastern Oregon


Release No. 2018-02-019

Lakeitha Ruffin, Economist

Tracy Robillard, Public Affairs Officer

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JOHN DAY, Ore. — (Feb. 1, 2018) — There’s no cheating cheatgrass.

This invasive annual weed is difficult to eradicate because of its short lifecycle and high seed production. Throw wildfire into the mix and it’s even more of a nuisance, because cheatgrass can become more dominant and expand after a fire.

Cheatgrass, and other invasive annuals like medusahead and ventenata, outcompetes other native forbs and grasses. If left unmanaged, it can reduce forage production for cattle and create a fire-prone monoculture of weeds.

So if you own or operate rangeland in Eastern Oregon, chances are you’ve seen cheatgrass on your property. But does it make financial sense to treat it?

A new economic report and infographic from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon helps ranchers and land managers answer that question.

The 2017 report, titled Economics of Annual Grass Control in Eastern Oregon, examined economic gains and losses when treating low, moderate and high levels of annual grass infestation. The financial values are based on three levels of forage production—500, 1,000 and 1,500 pounds of forage per acre.

The report found that treating low infestations across all three levels of forage production yields a financial gain, ranging from 21 cents to $4.94 per acre. However, treating highly infested areas showed a financial loss of $3.76 to $5.43 per acre, despite the level of forage production. Moderate infestations showed a financial gain with treatment only on sites producing 1,000 or 1,500 pounds per acre of forage.

While treatment costs, forage response, and actual numbers will vary with site specific conditions, the findings give landowners a general estimate of financial gains and losses associated with annual grass treatments.

Invasive annual grass treatments can be expensive and require periodic maintenance costs to be effective. But if they are treated appropriately, the land can benefit from increased forage production, reduced erosion, less wildfire risk, better water infiltration, improved habitat, and more.

This infographic summarizes findings in a 2017 report by  the Natural Resources Conservation Service on financial gains and losses associated with treating invasive annual grasses in Eastern Oregon. View the full report and infographic on the NRCS Oregon economics webpage.