Wheatgrasses Set to Appear on Pasture
By Jan Suszkiw
July 21, 2003
New sources of high-quality forage
could soon be in store for cattle of the Central and Northern Great Plains
The Nebraska Foundation Seed
Division is now propagating foundation seed for three new wheatgrass
cultivars ("Beefmaker," "Haymaker" and "NU-ARS
AC2" ) developed by Agricultural
Research Service and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) scientists. The division
plans on making the seed available this fall to seed producers who agree to
market the cultivars and certify their genetic lineage. Spring 2004 could mark
the first sales.
Beefmaker, an intermediate wheatgrass, is recommended as a pasture forage
for yearling beef steers because it's protein-packed and readily digested.
Haymaker, another intermediate wheatgrass, produces high hay yields in
low-rainfall areas. It's intended as a cool-season hay crop for maintaining
beef cow herds, according to Ken Vogel, who leads the
ARS Wheat, Sorghum and Forage
Research Unit, Lincoln, Neb.
During field trials from 1993-97 in western North Dakota, Haymaker averaged
1.4 tons of forage per acre, a yield that surpassed seven commercial cultivars.
Like Beefmaker, Haymaker can be grown in different grassland environments of
NU-ARS AC2 is a Fairway type of crested wheatgrass adapted to semiarid
regions. NU-ARS AC2 yields equal some of the best standard crested cultivars
even though it's about six inches shorter in height. It should provide genetic
diversity and high, stable yields when used to reseed cool-season pastures and
rangeland in the mid- and short- grass ecological regions of the CNGP.
The three wheatgrasses are partly derived from Eurasian germplasm including
specimens that ARS Hall of Fame Scientist Douglas Dewey collected while in the
former Soviet Union in 1977. Around 1983, Vogel led research to evaluate the
Eurasian strains' characteristics and crossbreed superior plants from the best
accessions. Next followed multilocation trials in which Vogel evaluated the
resulting strains to once again select superior plants. He did that work in
collaboration with David Baltensperger (UNL), Gerald Schuman (ARS, Cheyenne,
Wyo.), Robert Nicholson (Kansas State
University) and Dwight Tober (Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S.
Department of Agriculture.)
ARS is USDA's chief scientific research