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Saguaro National Park to use seasonal herbicide against fire-prone buffelgrass

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Saguaro National Park to use seasonal herbicide against fire-prone buffelgrass

  • Bethany Hontz/National Park Service

Starting next Tuesday, Saguaro National Park will begin spraying herbicide to limit the spread of invasive buffelgrass.

No closures are expected since most treatment spots are located away from trails, roads and recreation areas. Treated areas are safe to walk through once the chemical has dried for about 15 minutes, officials said.

Ground crews will use backpack sprayers to kill buffelgrass where monsoon rains have made it greener. Saguaro National Park has been using backpack sprayers to combat buffelgrass since 2005.

Hailing from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, buffelgrass was introduced to the Sonoran Desert in the 1930s to control erosion and feed cattle. Since, its extraordinary drought tolerance and seed production have allowed it to thrive in the desert at the expense of native plants.

Aside from creating competition for water and nutrients, the greatest threat buffelgrass poses to the desert is fire, according to a National Park Service report. Up to four tons of buffelgrass lie within each acre of Saguaro National Park, allowing fires to spread rapidly.

According to the report, untreated areas of Saguaro National Park can hold up to 3.5 times more buffelgrass than treated areas.

Large water caches have been stationed throughout the park for the herbicide-spraying period. Officials asked visitors avoid these caches, as they are important to the safety of ground crews.

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