Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Barkw. & Dewey - a review, and evaluation of intermediate and pubescent wheatgrass for dryland agriculture in New Zealand


  • B.J. Wills
  • G.B. Douglas
  • J. Mckenzie
  • K.D. Trainor
  • A.G. Foote



Intermediate and pubescent wheatgrasses (Thinopyrum intermedium) are potentially useful as dryland forage grasses in New Zealand. The recent literature on their international and local use in pasture and cropping situations is reviewed. Under semi-arid conditions at Bendigo Station over a 13-year period, cv. Luna wheatgrass has spread several metres from the original drill lines and it provides very high ground cover. In terms of dryland soil resource conservation this contrasts with adjacent cocksfoot and, to a lesser extent, lucerne plots which have wide-spaced plants interspersed with litter and much bare ground. In a mixed drilling containing wheatgrass, hairy dorycnium, birdsfoot trefoil and sheep's burnet, the first two species now dominate. At Takapau, central Hawke's Bay, annual yields from intermediate and pubescent wheatgrasses produced over 80% of the yield of 10 New Zealand cultivars in spring, summer and autumn, and 65% in the winter. Of the wheatgrasses, cv. Topar intermediate wheatgrass and a pubescent wheatgrass (unnamed line) were the lowest yielding, whereas cv. Oahe and cv. Mandan produced the highest yields. Cv. Greenleaf pubescent wheatgrass had higher foliar nitrogen content than all other species, but in vitro organic matter digestibility was less than 700 g OM/kg DM. Although the wheatgrasses had satisfactory herbage yield and nutritional value, better alternative species are available for pastoral farming in central Hawke's Bay. On Belfield in the Hakataramea Valley, cv. Rush has been the most vigorous wheatgrass for establishment and it seems to handle cold winds and frost well. Hay made from a wheatgrass/ lucerne mix is considered better than that from the individual species as this can increase production by 40-50%, depending on soil and climatic conditions. Usually only one cut per year is taken from the mixed pasture. Crop maintenance includes the application of 200 kg/ha of sulphur super extra every 3-4 years and the pH is maintained at about 5.9-6.4 by liming. A significant advantage is that no stock health, pest or plant disease problems have been noted as yet with any of the wheatgrass varieties available in New Zealand. Keywords: dryland agriculture, New Zealand, Thinopyrum, wheatgrass







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