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Mr. Smarty Plants - Introduction of King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemem)

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Monday - August 04, 2008

From: Corpus Christi, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Introduction of King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemem)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I am a graduate student from TAMUK and I'm writing my thesis concerning natives vs. Old World Bluestems. I was wondering if you could help me find a source that states: King Ranch (or KR) Bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica), was introduced from Europe and Asia, has greatly increased its range by cultivation for livestock forage and as an inclusion in seed mixes used to stabilize roadsides by highway departments. When it was introduced in the 1920s and 1930s it was seen as a desirable species for erosion control since it is drought resistant and quickly establishes itself. I am particularly interested in the dates. I've searched everywhere and cannot find the source to cite this. Any guidance will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

ANSWER:

I searched all my grass reference material and found under King Ranch Bluestem (Andropogon ischaemum var.) p.14 in Pasture and Range Plants published 2001 by Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas:

"Our best information indicates this bluestem was introduced to the California Agricultural Experiment Station from Amoy, China in 1917, but was not noticed until 1937 on the King Ranch in Texas. Since this date it has gained much popularity."

It goes on to say:

"King Ranch bluestem is relished by livestock early in the season. It is used for pasture, hay, seed crop, overseeding of depleted rangeland, soil conservation work in gulleys, waterways and for bank stabilization."

The contents of this book were originally published by Phillips Petroleum Company, Bartlesville, OK, from 1955-60 as a series of six booklets. The University of Texas library has a copy of these which once belonged to J. Frank Dobie. The first hardbound volume was published in 1963 by Phillips Petroleum Company. The University of Texas Library has a copy of this as well as a copy of the 5th printing from 1974. The 11th printing was published by Fort Hays State University in 2001.

[Note: Andropogo ischaemum var. songaricus is a synonym of Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica]

Additionally, I did a literature search in Agricola, the bibliographic database of citations to agricultural literature from the National Agricultural Library. I did my search through the University of Texas libraries. You could do the same, I'm sure, at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, but it is also possible to do the search online directly to Agricola. I looked for papers on KR bluestem that could possibly have some historical reference to introduction to the US. Here is one reference that I think might be useful to you. In their paper "Some Growth Characteristics of Four Old World Bluestems" (Journal of Range Management 38 (1), Jan. 1985, p.27-32) P. I. Coyne and J. A. Bradford write:

"Celarier and Harlan (1955) reported that the earliest recorded introductions of the OWB's to the Western Hemisphere and to the United States were in 1894 and 1917 respectively. They point out that interest in these grasses resulted from their apparent superiority to American forms (Andropogon spp.) with respect to quality, production, persistence under grazing, and ability to respond to high fertility levels."

This reference is:

Celarier, R. P., and J. R. Harlan. 1955. Studies on Old World bluestems. 31 p. Oklahoma Agr. Exp. Sta. Tech. Bull. T-58.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to this publication so can't tell if it has what you need, but it certainly seems to be potentially useful. It might also have references to older material that would have the information you're trying to find. You may have seen this publication already, but if you haven't I'm sure Jernigan Library Interlibrary Loan at TAMUK could help you get a copy of it.

Additionally, Dr. Mark Simmons, ecologist at the Wildflower Center, says that it is his understanding that there was a lot of research done in the middle 1900s about these old world bluestems (OWB) species in Oklahoma. They were grown together and a lot of x-pollination may have happened which makes the taxonomy very difficult.

 

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