The Enemy: Cheat (Bromus secalinus L.)

Strategy: This is a winter annual grass, that is, it germinates from seed in early October and grows slowly throughout winter. It’s often mistaken for Downey brome (Bromus tectorum) — Cheat grass. Real Cheat has leaves that are up to a quarter-inch wide and grow up to 30 inches tall. Downey brome grows up to 18 inches tall. The spikelets are up to ¾ inches long and are suspended from the main stalk. They are narrow and have awns that are relatively short, no more than a quarter-inch long. The seeds do not have the long awn that normally sticks to your socks and burrows into animals’ feet.

Attack: Cheat is forgeable for a few weeks in the early spring, but later becomes unpalatable. This allows it to spread, but it usually does not become the problem its smaller brother does. It was originally brought into the country as a cultivate crop, but was soon replaced by the current crops grown for grain. This plant becomes a problem in cultivated grains.

Defense: Mechanical control begets disturbance, which begets weeds. In areas that can be plowed, deep plow as to turn the soil completely over and bury the Cheat seed too deep for it to germinate. The use of certain herbicides at light rates can kill the Cheat without causing permanent damage to desirable species. Application in fall (when Cheat is actively growing and native plants are dormant) is when you can use products such as Plateau (4 ounces), Laramie, or when necessary Roundup (12 ounces). There is a new brand of grain that can be planted and sprayed over the top with certain a herbicide to control annual grasses.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email

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