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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a group of plants of the genus Agropyron of the family Gramineae. There are 13 species in the USSR. It is tall and loosely bushy with a thick, rather filamentous root system. Its inflorescence is spikelike with three to ten flowered sessile spikelets. The fruit is an oblong caryopsis, pilose on top. Wheatgrass is divided according to shape into narrow-spike (Siberian, desert) and broad-spike (pectinate, crested). Wheatgrass is grown in steppes, dry meadows, sands, and rocky slopes. Hardy, drought-resistant, and not demanding of soils, it is widely distributed in the steppes and forest steppes of Eifrasia and North Africa. In the USSR it is found mainly in the Ukraine, the Volga and Ural regions, and Middle Asia. Wheatgrass is a valuable forage plant.

Wheatgrass was first cultivated in Russia in 1900; now four species are sown and tested as crops. Siberian or sandy wheatgrass (A. sibiricum) is best sown in steppe and foreststeppe regions with erratic rainfall on coarse chernozems and chestnut soils. Desert wheatgrass (A. desertum) is best suited for loamy and clayey light chestnut soils and solonets soils. Pectinate or broad-spike wheatgrass (A. pectiniforme) is suitable for the southeastern and eastern regions of the USSR on chestnut and solonets soils. Crested wheatgrass (A. cristatum) grows on stony slopes and dry meadows.

Pectinate wheatgrass is the most valuable species for forage. Its chemical compostion (in percent) is water, 56.6; protein, 5.1; fat, 1.1; cellulose, 15.4; nitrogen-free extractable substances, 18.2; and ash, 3.6. One hundred kilograms of foliage contains 25.5 feed units and 3.8 kg of digestible protein; 100 kg of hay has 48.7 feed units and 6.9 kg of digestible protein. Wheatgrass is eaten by all farm animals. The after-growth of Siberian wheatgrass is good fattening feed.

Wheatgrass is the main component of grass mixtures (wheatgrass plus alfalfa or sainfoin) in field and fodder meadow-pasture crop rotations. In fodder rotations, it is sown in fall or spring under the cover of winter or spring crops. The seeds are planted 2 cm below the surface, at the rate of 12 kg per hectare (ha) in drill seeding. Wheatgrass is generally mowed once a year; the aftergrowth is slight. It is harvested for hay in the ear formation stage. The foliage yield is about 50 centners per ha; hay, 15-30 centners per ha. The yields are highest in the third and fourth years of growth. It remains in crop rotations three to five years. Seeds are obtained from ordinary drilling seeds or special seed plants. The widerow method is used with rows 60 cm apart; the sowing rate is 5-7 kg per ha. The seed plants are harvested with a combine. The average seed yield is 3-4 centners per ha.


Flora SSSR, vol. 2. Leningrad, 1934.
Kosarev, M. G.Zhitniak. Moscow, 1941.
Shain, S. S., and B. A. Karunin. Zhitniak. Moscow, 1950.
Kormovye rasteniia senokosov i pastbishch SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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