Western Wheatgrass

(Agropyron smithii)


Western Wheatgrass, also known as Bluestem Wheatgrass, is one of the most common and abundant wheatgrasses in the West. It is widely distributed from Canada throughout the western half of the United States.

It is a long-lived, cool-season, erect sodformer, growing from 30.5 to 122 cm (12 to 48 in.) tall. The stems and leaves are often covered with a waxy coating which gives them a blue-green color. Seed heads are long and slender, much like awnless wheat.

Western Wheatgrass reproduces by very aggressive, long, slender rhizomes, as well as by seed. The rhizomes may grow 91.5 to 122 cm (36 to 48 in.) in one growing season and develop a heavy sod under favorable conditions.

The species is best adapted to well-drained bottomland, but is commonly found on open plains, hillsides and benchlands. Western wheatgrass is a primary forage species on ranges of the pinion-juniper, northern desert shrub and short grass plains type. In New Mexico, it is widespread throughout the state from 914.4 to 2,743 m (3,000 to 9,000 ft.).

Western Wheatgrass produces nutritious forage early in the spring before the warm-season grasses become green. It is palatable to all classes of livestock, and sheep especially like the seed head. Deer and elk also rate Western Wheatgrass as choice feed. It cures well on the ground and provides good winter forage. Western wheatgrass is also useful as a reclamation plant for disturbed areas such as mine spoils.

Seed may be drilled or broadcast. Planting dates should coincide with the two-month period of most favorable moisture (either spring or fall). Seeding depth can range from 1.3 to 2.5 cm (½ to 1 in.) depending on the soil type.



5.6 to 7.8 kg PLS/hectare

5 to 7 lbs. PLS/acre



120,000 per lb. (0.46 kg)




Arriba was released in 1973 by the Agricultural Experiment Station of New Mexico State University and Colorado State University, the New Mexico State Highway Department, and the USDA Soil Conservation Service. The original source of the medium-tall variety was from plants growing west of Flager, Colorado. It has good seedling vigor and its aggressive sodforming habit makes it a valuable conservation plant for soil stabilization. Under irrigation, Arriba is capable of producing a large amount of nutritious forage for use either as hay or pasture. In test conducted in New Mexico, Arriba has been superior in seed production to all other strains with which it was compared when grown under irrigation. It is average in tolerance to plant mites and rust infestation.


The Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA Agricultural Research Service released Barton western wheatgrass in 1970. Its source of origin was seed collected from a native stand in Barton County, Kansas. Barton spreads aggressively by underground rootstocks and is intermediate in growth between northern and southern types. It is recommended for range and soil stabilization plantings in western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and the eastern plains of Colorado.


Rosanna is a selection from Rosebud County, Montana. It is adapted for use in Montana, Wyoming and the western Dakotas.


Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN