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New Western Grass Soon to be Roadside-Ready

By Marcia Wood
September 11, 1998

A hardy new grass that thwarts erosion may become a leading choice for seeding along roadsides and highways in the West. Called "RoadCrest," the grass tolerates cold and drought. It readily forms rhizomes--horizontal, underground stems that send up new shoots to create attractively uniform, gap-free growth.

Until now known only by its research designation, "CWG-Rhizome," RoadCrest is the result of 15 years of work by Agricultural Research Service geneticist Kay H. Asay and colleagues with ARS in Logan, Utah, and at Utah State University.

Tests in Utah, Colorado, Washington and Wyoming indicate that RoadCrest, a cool- season grass, should thrive in temperate, semi-arid areas of Intermountain and Great Plains states. In those regions, RoadCrest is best-suited for sites that have mild summer temperatures and receive about 10 to 20 inches of precipitation a year.

In the ARS experiments, RoadCrest "greened up" earlier in spring than many other grasses, formed rhizomes more vigorously, and was shorter in stature, a trait that helps reduce the need for mowing. Another cost-saving feature: Less RoadCrest seed was required to establish a healthy stand.

RoadCrest is a long-lived perennial crested wheatgrass. It is a descendant of parent plants grown from seeds collected in Turkey and sent to ARS for grass-breeding experiments.

The State of Utah helped fund the work by ARS, the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seed should be on sale by the year 2000.

Scientific contact: Kay H. Asay, research geneticist, USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, phone (435) 797-3069, fax (435) 797-3075,

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