Local 4-H team headed to state challenge

Teamwork has become second nature for AnnElise Brostrom, Madison Arndt, and Caleb Brostrom since they joined forces in January of 2015. AnnElise, Madison and Caleb are the Buckthorn Busters, a group competing in the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge. Each team is required to identify an agricultural issue in their community and find a scientific solution for the problem in order to enter the challenge.

Left to right: Caleb Brostrom, 13, Madison Arndt, 16, AnnElise Brostrom, 16. Photos by Danny Mooers
Left to right: Caleb Brostrom, 13, Madison Arndt, 16, AnnElise Brostrom, 16. Photos by Danny Mooers

They will face off against 18 other teams June 21-23 at the University of Minnesota for a $1,000 scholarship, which is granted to each member of the winning team.

“Our main goal is to get people educated about invasive species,” said AnnElise. Not only have they been gathering information on buckthorn to present at the challenge, but they have been putting their research to practical use.

AnnElise, Madison, and Caleb have visited 16 houses in the East Bethel area, and informed residents of the negative aspects of buckthorn. Buckthorn inhibits other vegetation from properly growing and diminishes wildlife habitat. Only three of the 16 houses did not have buckthorn infestation.

The Buckthorn Busters also have approached the city of Andover to suggest ways to rid their parks of buckthorn. They came up with an idea similar to “Adopt a Highway,” instead it would be “Adopt a Park.” People or groups could sponsor a park and not only ensure it’s well-kept, but they could work to rid it of invasive species, like buckthorn.

From September 2015 to April 2016, the Buckthorn Busters have been performing experiments on the best ways to diminish the buckthorn invasion. Madison, 16, experimented with putting animal fat on a stump near his house, hoping animals would gnaw on it until it was gone, and after five years, “it was a pile of chips on the ground,” said Madison. He has successfully used this same idea in an effort to decrease the amount of buckthorn in the East Bethel area.

Madison Arndt showcases a poster the Buckthorn Busters made on the science of agriculture and response.
Madison Arndt showcases a poster the Buckthorn Busters made on the science of agriculture and response.

Their experimental area in East Bethel consists of 15 buckthorn stumps. After applying animal fat to the stumps every week for 30 weeks, 12 of the 15 stumps had diminished. Only three of the stumps began to regrow because of a lack of grease applied, reinforcing the effectiveness of the animal fat technique.

AnnElise, 16, is a clear leader of the team. “I mainly do the research for the team. I enjoy doing research more than them,” she said. The “boys”, as AnnElise calls them, are in charge of physical labor as well as technological aspects of the group. They will do anything from removing buckthorn to putting together a PowerPoint for their presentations.

The team has been exceptionally resourceful throughout the entire process. For the challenge, they are required to consult with one mentor, but they have gone above and beyond the requirements. Lara Newberger, Forestry Technician for Plymouth, is their primary mentor, but they have also spoken with Laura Van Riper of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture on ways to properly identify and remove invasive species. The Buckthorn Busters are performing a vital community service by educating their own neighborhoods and prominent members of Minnesota’s agriculture community of natural ways to remove buckthorn.

To learn more about how to identify and remove buckthorn, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us.