Intermediate wheatgrass is a perennial grass introduced in 1932 from Europe and Asia. It is widely used for hay and pasture in the northern Great Plains, west to central Washington, and south into Colorado, Kansas, northern New Mexico and Arizona. It is broadly distributed and is a favorite in pasture mixes. It produces good hay yields, both in monoculture and in mixtures. Intermediate wheatgrass grows to 3 to 4 feet tall. It is a long-lived, cool season grass with short rhizomes and a deep feeding root system.
Intermediate Wheatgrass Habitat
Intermediate wheatgrass is adapted to areas with 12 to 14 inches of annual rainfall or greater. The pubescent form can tolerate slightly more droughty conditions to 11 or 12 inches of rainfall. It performs best between 3,500 and 9,000 feet elevation. It can be seeded at lower elevations, but moisture requirements are greater. It is not as drought tolerant as Crested Wheatgrass, Siberian Wheatgrass or Russian Wildrye.
Intermediate wheatgrass responds very well to limited irrigation. It is able to tolerate droughty conditions when irrigation ceases as long as about 12-14 inches or more total annual moisture is provided. It provides excellent spring, early summer, and fall pasture, but must be carefully managed to ensure maintenance of the stand and high production.
Intermediate Wheatgrass Uses:
Intermediate wheatgrass is palatable to all classes of livestock and wildlife. It is a preferred feed for cattle, sheep, horses, deer, antelope, and elk in spring, early summer and fall. It is considered a desirable feed for cattle, sheep, horses, and elk in summer and winter. Livestock and wildlife will graze it throughout the growing season, but it is most preferred as forage in spring, early summer, and fall. A healthy, productive stand will not withstand heavy continuous grazing. Stands of intermediate wheatgrass are not as susceptible to spring and fall freezing as Smooth Brome, Meadow Brome, or Orchardgrass. Intermediate wheatgrass has fairly slow re-growth following clipping and is best adapted to single crop- haying conditions. It responds very well to irrigation with initial production nearing the level of orchardgrassand meadow bromeand exceeding smooth brome under full irrigation.
Intermediate wheatgrass is well adapted to the stabilization of disturbed soils. This grass can be used in critical and urban areas where irrigation water is limited and to stabilize ditch banks, dikes, and roadsides. This grass can also be use to build soils because of its heavy root production. Levels as high as 7,000 pounds (dry weight) per acre of root production in the upper 8 inches of soil have been measured in five-year-old stands.
Eight inches of new growth should be attained in spring before grazing is allowed on established stands. A four-inch stubble height should be maintained following grazing or mowing and going into winter. In pasture tests, stands consistently out- yield other grass-legume mixtures. For this reason, stocking rates can be set higher than other grasses. Care should be taken to allow proper rest of at least 21 to 28 days between grazing periods under irrigated and high moisture situations.