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Research Vision

To maximize forage productivity and biofuel potential of rangelands receiving 12 to 18 inches of annual precipitation by using improved plant materials.

Research Objectives

  1. Develop high biomass/biofuel grass germplasm and cultivars for semi-arid regions of the western U.S.
  2. Develop improved plant genetics/cultivars for disturbed mine land restoration.
  3. Develop genomic resources to enhance the development of improved legumes and forbs adapted to semi-arid rangelands of the western U.S.
  4. Develop new forage cultivars adapted to semi-arid rangelands of the western U.S. for fall and winter forage.

Production field of Basin wildrye




High-Biomass/Biofuel Perennial Grass Feed Stock

Develop high biomass perennial grass germplasm and cultivars for semi-arid regions of the western U.S.

Great Basin wildrye hybrid field


  1. Provide high yielding intermediate and tall wheatgrasses and Great Basin wildrye cultivars with improved nutritional quality and stand establishment for use on semi-arid rangelands.
  2. Develop molecular genetic tools to identify genes and enhance cultivar development for biomass, quality, see production, germination, and seedling establishment.
  3. Develop methods and parent combinations for commercial hybrid seed production in Great Basin wildrye and other grass hybrids.

Enhance Plant Genetics for Disturbed Mine Land Restoration

Heavy-metal tolerance breeding and genetics in perennial grasses has received little attention.  Hence, there is a great opportunity for breakthroughs in this area.  Moreover, genes controlling tolerance to these problems have not been adequately characterized.  Thus, genes controlling heavy-metal tolerance will be identified in Great Basin wildrye.

Left: Treated mine site                       Right: Untreated site


  1. Identify species that will germinate when seeded in heavy-metal soils.
  2. Identify species that persist and exclude heavy metals when grown in heavy-metal soils.
  3. Identify genes for metal tolerance in Great Basin wildrye and creeping wildrye.

Improved Legume/Forb Germplasm for Arid Regions of the Western U.S.

Develop new genomic resources and legume cultivars adapted to semi-arid rangelands of the western U.S. with increased seedling vigor and forage quality.

Dryland alfalfa Sainfoin breeding population


  1. Alfalfa cultivars with increased yield and persistence under dryland conditions.
  2. Sainfoin populations with improved persistence, and forage production, particularly under dry conditions.
  3. Improved cultivars of Utah sweetvetch with increased seed production, seedling establishment, persistence, and forage production.

Utah sweetvetch breeding population

Improved Plant Materials for Fall and Winter Forage

On western rangelands where winter feeding of harvested forage is economically limiting, the use of stockpiled grasses, legumes, and forbs as a source of fall and winter forage is gaining in popularity.

Fall grazing of forage kochia and crested wheatgrass Fall/Winter grazing of forage kochia


  1. Release of cultivar Mustang Altai wildrye (2004) with increased seedling vigor for fall and winter forage.
  2. Develop new forage kochia cultivars with increased stature and productivity primarily for livestock and wildlife grazing.
  3. Document the economic benefit of forage kochia as a fall and winter forage.
  4. Better understand species and their interactions with species and plant spacing such that optimal forage production is achieved.



Seed available from the Utah Crop Improvement Association  1-435-797-2082