Cattle and wildlife on western rangelands may soon be grazing on a rugged new grass from USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Known as CD-II, the plant is a crested wheatgrass from plant breeders at the agency's Forage and Range Research Laboratory at Logan, Utah.
CD-II is "leafy, vigorous, and tolerant of drought, insects, and diseases," says geneticist Kay H. Asay, who is with ARS at Logan. And according to Asay, CD-II "produces few if any purple leaves in spring."
That's a plus. In crested wheatgrass, purple leaves are a sign of stress and reduced growth.
A perennial, CD-II is well adapted to semiarid rangelands of the intermountain and western Great Plains that get 10 to 16 inches of precipitation a year. "CD-II is suitable for planting at elevations up to 6,000 feet," notes Asay, "and should provide abundant forage in early spring through about midsummer."
In harsh environments where competition from weedy annuals is a problem, CD-II emerges more readily than many other kinds of crested wheatgrass. Related to Hycrest, another crested wheatgrass developed by Asay and colleagues at Logan, CD-II is leafier and produces more growth in early spring.
Asay says livestock and wildlife—including deer and elk—readily graze CD-II's abundant foliage. However, because it becomes dormant and less palatable in midsummer, Asay says it should be planted in combination with other grasses and shrubs that can provide forage for that time of the year.
CD-II is the result of 11 years of plant breeding and testing by Asay and ARS co-researchers N. Jerry Chatterton, Kevin B. Jensen, Richard R-C. Wang, Douglas A. Johnson, and W. Howard Horton at Logan; and Stanford A. Young of Utah State University. ARS—in collaboration with the university—released initial supplies of seed in 1996.
Six companies have licenses to sell the new grass. Two of them—Round Butte Seed Growers, Inc., of Culver, Oregon, and Wheatland Seed, Inc., of Brigham City, Utah—sold supplies for the first time in 1998.
Big Sky Wholesale Seeds, Inc., of Shelby, Montana, plans to begin selling CD-II this year, as do Rainier Seeds, Inc., Port Orchard, Washington; and Newfield Seeds Company, Ltd., of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grassland West Company of Clarkston, Washington, will market CD-II next year.—By Marcia Wood, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
"For Outstanding Forage, New CD-II Wheatgrass" was published in the July 1999 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.