Buffelgrass and cows in Kenya

CNS Researchers Combat Invasive Grass in Kenya Study

  • Jul 1, 2024

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin’s Brackenridge Field Lab recently published their findings on a study of the invasive buffelgrass species and how to control it using targeted grazing. The perennial grass, native to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, pushed its way onto U.S. soil in the 1930s. Now commonly used by ranchers to feed cattle, it is especially prevalent in Texas and other southern parts of the U.S. that share an economic focus on beef production. 

However, without its natural predators, the grass easily spreads away from the reaches of cattle, damaging ecosystems and reducing biodiversity by pushing out native plant species. Land managers and ecologists also raised concerns over its capacity to increase the prevalence and severity of wildfires.   

Brackenridge Field Lab researchers traveled to native buffelgrass habitat in Kenya to study its habits and possible containment solutions at the Mpala Research Centre. They tested each of the grass’ natural enemies in controlled settings, observing the impact of different climates, fungal disease, stem-boring insects and animal grazing.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Aaron Rhodes, research scientist in the Department of Integrative Biology at UT Austin. “Buffelgrass is a popular forage species for livestock producers, but it contributes to biodiversity loss and wildfire risk.”  

Rhodes and some of his fellow UT researchers previously discovered how a different invasive grass species in Texas, guinea grass, uses chemical warfare to crowd out native species. In sum, invasive grasses are changing the American landscape, from Maui to South Texas.

Learn more at the College of Natural Sciences website