Russian Wildrye

Curtis Bjork
Scientific name: 

Psathyrostachys juncea (Fisch.) Nevski

Agronomic Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
Annual precip. max (mm): 
Typical seeding objectives: 
PR Suitability note: 
Although it is adapted to the Peace Region, Russian wildrye has not been widely used.
Key considerations: 
Russian wildrye cures well on the stem and maintains good nutritional value into the winter making it useful as stockpiled pasture forage. Tolerance for alkaline soils with pH up to 9.0 It is difficult to establish.
General Description: 
Russian wildrye is a large, cool season, introduced, long-lived, perennial bunchgrass. It is well suited for pasture and stockpiled grazing. The roots are fibrous and may establish to a depth of 1.9 to 2.6 m (6 to 8 ft.). However, about 75% of the roots are in the surface 15 to 60 cm (6 to 24 in.). Russian wildrye roots have an extended horizontal spread and may draw heavily on soil moisture for a distance of up to 1.3 to 1.6 m (4 to 5 ft.). Its long season of growth and its vigorous soil-feeding habit make this species an excellent competitor with weeds once the grass is well established. 
It has an abundance of long, dense, basal leaves that are from 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 in.) long and up to 0.6 cm (¼ in.) in width. Plants vary from light to dark green, with many shades of blue-green. The erect, leafless reproductive stems are about 75 to 100 cm (30 to 39 in.) tall.
The seed head is a short dense, erect spike with two or more short-awned spikelets clustered at axis joints. The seed shatters readily at maturity. The seed is about the same size as crested wheatgrass seed.
Currently not widely distributed in British Columbia.
A versatile forage for dryland pastures. The bulk of its forage production remains close to the ground, making it unsuitable for hay production.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Well suited to spring, fall, and winter grazing. Spring growth is somewhat later than crested wheatgrass.
Recovery after use: 
Adequate rest (at least 60 days) following early spring use is recommended. Fall regrowth is typically better than crested wheatgrass.
Forage yield: 
Information is limited on dryland yields for new varieties in British Columbia. Recent 1-year results on a trial in the Cariboo near Micocene (elev. 3,400’) produced 2,564 kg/ha (2,289 lb/acre). Reported 4-year average yields were approximately half those of crested wheatgrass for two very dry sites (Tranquille and Cache Creek) in the Thompson – Okanagan region. The 4-year average yields on these two sites ranged from 150 to 210 kg/ha (134 to 188 lb/acre).