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Rootless wheatgrass

Rootless wheatgrass, also slender wheatgrass, (Elymus trachycaulus) is a fodder crop related to perennial cereal grasses.

Rootless wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus)
Rootless wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus)
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©Matt Lavin (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Economic importance

In terms of growth rates, the rootless wheatgrass is inferior to the awnless brome, but ahead of the timothy meadow. Differs in weak foliage and aftertaste.

It reaches hay ripeness in the earing phase in mid-June. The hay is coarse, but of sufficient quality. Hay harvested in the tillering phase contains 10.6% protein, in the flowering phase – 9.6%. According to the content of digestible nutrients, it is similar to awnless rump hay. In terms of palatability, it is inferior to almost all cereal grasses.

Pasture maturity with a herbage height of 15-20 cm occurs in the tillering phase at the end of May. After etching, regrowth is satisfactory. On the pasture it is well eaten by livestock only until earing, then it quickly begins to coarsen.

In semi-arid conditions, it is mainly used in grass mixtures with alfalfa and sainfoin.

It is mainly used for mowing, less often for grazing animals.

100 kg of hay corresponds to 54 feed units and contains 4.5 kg of digestible protein.

The main disadvantage of using couch grass rootless is the great similarity in appearance of seeds and plants with creeping wheatgrass. Therefore, its use as part of grass mixtures on field lands can lead to clogging of fields with couch grass.

Cultivation areas

It is grown in the forest-steppe and steppe zones, with the exception of dry steppes, in the Far East, in Western and Eastern Siberia, in the north of the Rostov region.


Hay yield 3-5 t/ha, seeds – 200-600 kg/ha.

The yield of seeds obtained at the Karabalyk Agricultural Experimental Station from an area of ​​87 hectares was 570 kg/ha.

Botanical description

Rootless wheatgrass, or New England wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus Gould et Shinners) is a perennial (mid-summer) late-ripening cereal plant, a top loose-bush type.

The root system is fibrous, well developed, penetrates the soil to a depth of more than 1 m.

Stems are straight, thin, 50-100 cm high. Well leafy. The bush is dense, with numerous stems.

The leaves are narrow, long, light or dark green in color, coarsen and become stiff as they grow.

Inflorescence is a loose spike, 10-20 cm long. Spikelets have 2-3 flowers, pressed to the stem. Cross pollination.

Seeds are oblong-linear, straw-yellow, weight of 1000 pieces – 2.8-3 g.

Biological features

Winter hardiness and drought resistance are high, somewhat inferior to awnless brome and wheatgrass. It is severely damaged by ground ice crust, which leads to thinning of herbage and loss.

It is undemanding to soils, can grow on any soils, with the exception of wet marshy ones. Chernozem, chestnut and gray forest are optimally suited.


In field and fodder crop rotations, it is usually sown in a mixture with sandy sainfoin. Under cover reaches full development in the second year of life.

With coverless sowing, it is able to bloom and bear fruit in the year of sowing. Gives the greatest productivity in the first two years of use. From the third year it begins to thin out, in 4-5 years almost completely falls out of the herbage.

The type of development is winter-spring.


In mixtures with alfalfa and sainfoin, it is sown under the cover of winter and spring crops. Sowing under the cover of winter couch grass rootless can be carried out in autumn or early spring, alfalfa and sainfoin – only in the spring. Under the cover of spring crops, the sowing of grass mixtures is carried out simultaneously with the sowing of the cover crop with grain-grass seeders.

The seeding rate for a continuous row method of sowing is 13-16 kg/ha, for a wide-row method it is 7-8 kg/ha. Sowing depth 2-4 cm.

Crop care

Important care practices include harrowing and fertilizing the herbage in spring and after mowing.


Harvesting for hay is started in the heading phase

Harvesting for seeds is carried out in the phase of full ripeness by direct combining.


Crop production / P.P. Vavilov, V.V. Gritsenko, V.S. Kuznetsov and others; Ed. P.P. Vavilov. – 5th ed., revised. and additional – M.: Agropromizdat, 1986. – 512 p.: ill. – (Textbook and textbooks for higher educational institutions).

V.V. Kolomeichenko. Crop production / Textbook. — M.: Agrobusinesscenter, 2007. — 600 p. ISBN 978-5-902792-11-6.

Fundamentals of agricultural production technology. Agriculture and crop production. Ed. V.S. Niklyaev. – M .: “Epic”, 2000. – 555 p.