Fire, Seeds and Pathogen Persistence

Cheatgrass dominance is tightly tied to its ability to increase the frequency of fire. These studies are aimed at understanding the impact of fire on both the cheatgrass seed bank and the resident pathogen population.


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What it's about

What we did

What we found out

We have used laboratory studies on thermal tolerance of seeds and pathogen tissues as well as seed bank evaluation in connection with prescribed burns and wildfire to understand the impacts of fire on the relationship between this pathogen and seeds of its cheatgrass host.

Most cheatgrass seeds are destroyed by fire, but a small fraction usually escapes death. Most pathogen propagules are also destroyed, but the pathogen is even more resistant to heat than seeds. It returns to pre-burn levels rapidly once cheatgrass reestablishes.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Julie Beckstead
Co-PI's: Dr. Phil Allen, Dr. Susan Meyer
Technical Support: Duane Smith
Students:  Thom Stewart, Laura Street

Beckstead, J., Street LE, Meyer SE, Allen PS. In press. The effect of fire on the cheatgrass seed pathogen Pyrenophora semeniperda. Rangeland Ecology and Management.

Duane on burnt vs unburnt site

Duane on burnt vs unburnt site