Crested wheatgrass

(Agropyron desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) Schult.)




Synonyms
Triticum desertorum Fisch. ex Link
Description
Crested wheatgrass is a long-lived, moderately coarse, perennial bunchgrass, 2 to 3 feet tall. Its leaves, bright green, curing to straw color, are flat and 6 to 10 inches long. Inflorescences of crested wheatgrass are 2 to 3 1/2 inch-long spikes, bor ne singly on the ends of the culms. The name refers to the flat inflorescence that somewhat resembles a head of wheat.
Distribution and habitat
This grass is not native to Arizona, and generally occurs where it has been planted. It is found primarily in the northern part of Arizona at elevations above 5,000 feet.
General information
Crested wheatgrass produces a large volume of high-quality forage. It begins to grow early in the spring, becomes dry before summer rains and resumes growth after the summer rains have begun. When fall rains come early the plants begin to grow again a nd provide feed until covered by snow. Thus, crested wheatgrass furnishes green forage in early spring and late fall when other feed is scarce. It is highly palatable to all classes of livestock. Crested wheatgrass tends to become fibrous at maturity, and therefore palatability and nutritional quality of the plant decline after June. Because of its coarseness it makes poor forage when dry. When green and actively growing, on the other hand, there are few grasses that are more nutritious. Crested wheatgras s can be grazed 2 to 4 weeks earlier than native grasses on the Colorado plateau. Light to moderate grazing (up to 70% utilization) invigorates a crested wheatgrass stand and extends its life, while heavy grazing may speed up the invasion of sagebrush or of weeds such as Russian thistle. Crested wheatgrass withstands heavy grazing better than most grasses. When closely grazed, however, livestock should be excluded about every third year from before the time summer growth begins until the seed crop has mat ured.