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New Grass on Menu for Western Cattle and Wildlife

By Marcia Wood
July 28, 1999

Cattle and wildlife on western rangelands may soon be grazing on CD-II, a rugged and leafy crested wheatgrass from plant breeders at the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief research agency.

The six companies licensed to produce CD-II seed are moving to make larger quantities of the grass widely available.

CD-II tolerates drought, insects and diseases. One visible sign of its tolerance: it produces few purple leaves in cool spring or fall weather. In crested wheatgrass, purple leaves are a symptom of stress and reduced growth, according to plant geneticist Kay H. Asay of the ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory in Logan, Utah. He led the CD-II research, working with ARS and Utah State University colleagues.

CD-II adapts well to rangelands of the Intermountain region and northern Great Plains that get about 10 to 16 inches of precipitation a year. It is suitable for planting at elevations up to 6,000 feet. It needs to be planted in combination with other grasses, not only to keep ecosystems diverse, but also to provide alternate forage in mid-summer when CD-II becomes dormant.

ARS--in collaboration with Utah State University--offered initial supplies of CD-II seed to plant breeders in 1996, after more than a decade of plant breeding and testing.

Two of the six companies licensed to sell CD-II--Round Butte Seed Growers, Inc., Culver, Ore., and Wheatland Seed, Inc., Brigham City, Utah--sold CD-II for the first time in 1998.

Three of the companies plan to market CD-II this year: Big Sky Wholesale Seeds, Inc., Shelby, Mont.; Rainier Seeds, Inc., Port Orchard, Wash.; and Newfield Seeds Company, Ltd., Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grassland West Company, Clarkston, Wash., will sell CD-II next year.

An article in the July issue of the ARS monthly journal, Agricultural Research, tells more. The article is also on the web at:


Scientific contact: Kay H. Asay, ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory, 695 North 1100 East, Logan, UT 84322-6300, phone (435) 797-3069, fax (435) 797-3075, khasay@cc.usu.ed.