An Awkward Relationship

Many Master’s projects in Weed Science are aimed at building our understanding of weeds and some aspect of their management so that we can better combat them. My project is focused on the development of a method to kill downy brome seed contaminants in reclamation seed mixes without harming desirable seeds. One might think that the scrupulous examination of a weed species for the purpose of destroying it might build feelings of animosity towards the species. Strangely, however, I’ve noticed feelings of respect and even a little admiration for the unmatched competitive ability of downy brome. It’s become like an old, formidable enemy with whom my path has crossed before and is likely to cross again.

Ed Young Cheatgrass

In some ways it reminds me of when my 2-year old son does a really awesome but dangerous trick from the top of the sofa. How do you react to that? Can you really dismiss the fact that he pulled off a fantastic physical feat and just voice your disapproval? Maybe I should, but more often than not I say the same thing that I want to say when a tiny downy brome seedling survives 14-days of being bone-dry on the lab bench: “Wow…that was awesome, but please don’t do it again.”

Why bother to post a personification of downy brome? I guess I just wanted to convey the unexpected respect that a graduate student can gain for the organisms that he/she studies. Don’t worry, I’m still going to do my best to destroy downy brome seeds.


  1. Similar to the quandary a plant breeder faces when they plant a variety trial, and hope for just enough disease and insects to differentiate them, but not enough to kill everything.

Comments are closed