Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) is often grown for erosion control and as a livestock forage feed. A cool season grass that offers a long lifespan, wheatgrass grows using rhizomes that easily spread. The grass grows 1 to 3 feet in height. Each seed spike measures only 2 to 6 inches in length. It grows wild throughout the western and Midwestern United States, and was once one of the main native grasses of the Great Plains.
Growth Region Requirements
Western wheatgrass prefers to be grown in well-draining soil. It can withstand a wide range of soil types. The grass does not tolerate standing water well, but can tolerate it for short periods of time if a flood should occur. It enjoys an average rainfall of at least 14 inches. Western wheatgrass can flourish in areas between 1,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation. The growth of the grass is erect and strong. Leaves are blue-green in color and quite stiff.
The strong rhizomes that make up the root system of the wheatgrass makes it ideal to help prevent soil erosion. It is also widely used in areas where reclamation must take place. Its vigorous growth and low water requirements work well to cover areas of land quickly.
Wheatgrass is adored by wildlife and livestock. Grown as a pasture land with various other species provides an excellent source of animal feed. The grass can also be harvested like hay. Harvested wheatgrass is believed to be 60 percent digestible, according to the Montana County Extension Service and National Resource Conservation Service Offices. Early spring wheatgrass contains 18 percent protein. The carbohydrate levels begin at 40 percent and raise to 50 percent as the season progresses.
Seed wheatgrass in the early spring for the best results. Once seeded, the area will require irrigation to encourage the seeds to germinate.
Root System and Foliage
The root system of wheat grass lies approximately 8 inches below the soil surface and forms a deep, thick sod. The actual feeding roots can grow 60 feet deep, which enables the grass to grow in many nutrient-poor areas. The deep roots also aid the grass in withstanding drought conditions.