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Agropyron elongatum (Host). Beauv.

Tall Wheatgrass

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Tall wheatgrass is useful for hay and pasturage on soils not suitable for other wheatgrasses. Makes good green feed in dry summers and palatable hay if cut before flowering. It establishes well on wet alkaline soils and is extensively used in reclaiming such areas, and has been reported promising in arid zone of South Australia where rainfall is 12.5–20 cm annually. Heath (1975) recommends the species for reclaiming saline soils. Fuller et al (1982) show how the species can be used in reclaiming red mud bauxite residues.

Folk Medicine

No data available.


No data available.


Coarse, tufted, tall, coarse-textured perennial grass; culms erect, very hard, 75–180 cm tall, glabrous; leaves gray-green or glaucous, stiff, involute, scabrous or glabrous on upper surface and along margins, smooth beneath, veins prominent; spike erect, 10–30 cm long, loose; lower internodes of rachis 1.5–3 cm long, upper ones shorter, all internodes flat or nearly so on side facing spikelet, scabrous on angles; spikelets appressed before flowering, divaricate at anthesis, 1.4–2.5 cm long, 5–11-flowered; glumes obtuse, subtruncate, oblong, 0.7–1.1 cm long, 2.5–3 mm broad, smooth, indurate, shorter than lowest floret; lemmas broadly lanceolate, 1–1.2 cm long, obtuse, 5-veined, with midvein thicker than others; palea smooth, slightly shorter than lemma, 0.9–1 cm long, lanceolate or broadly so, obtuse, ciliate on keels. Fl. July. Seeds 175,000 to 187,000/kg.


Reported from the Mediterranean Center of Diversity, tall wheatgrass or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate alkali, drought, frost, high pH, insects, sodium or salt, rust, virus, and waterlog. Since tall wheatgrass was introduced in 1932 from Russia, several cultivars have been developed: 'Largo', a New Mexico cultivar (1937); 'Jose', a New Mexico cultivar (1965), a green type with higher quality forage; 'Alkar', a Washington cultivar (1959), used to reclaim large areas of saline and alkaline lands; and 'Orbit', a Canadian cultivar (1966), is winter-hardy, adapted to wet saline soils in all parts of Canada. In breeding experiments, by use of amphidiploid (2n= 56) and polyploid (2n= 70) plants, this wheatgrass provides a source of resistance to wheat rusts, Puccinis graminis and P. recondita. (2n= 14, 56, 70)


Native to eastern Mediterranean region, from southern Europe to Asia Minor and Crimea, where it occurs in saline meadows and along seashores. Introduced in United States in Great Plains and Inter-mountain Plateau areas north into Canada, and in arid regions of South Australia.


Ranging from Boreal Moist through Subtropical Thorn to Dry Forest Life Zones, Tall wheatgrass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3 to 21 dm (mean of 22 cases = 6), annual temperature of 5° to 19°C (mean of 22 cases = 12), and pH of 5.3 to 9.0 (mean of 22 cases=6.8). Thrives in areas subject to inundation to saline water, as seashores, saline meadows and on alkaline soils. It is a cool-season grass, and is less drought-resistant and less palatable than crested wheatgrass (A. desertorum). Will grow in areas with 12.5–20 cm annual rainfall, but will tolerate much more.


Propagation by seed, usually sown in pure stand. Seed production is good except at high altitudes, as it requires a long ripening season. Seed rate is 9–13 kg/ha. Makes good spring and fall growth and remains green well into the summer.


Tall wheatgrass makes fair hay and can be used successfully for silage. Because of its late maturity, it provides a long grazing period when used for pasture, but it is not so palatable as most other wheatgrasses.

Yields and Economics

Yields are exceptionally high where moisture conditions are favorable. Seed yields vary from 382–717 kg/ha in 'Orbit'. Tall wheatgrass is used extensively for seeding alkaline sites in the northern Plains and Intermountain regions of United States, Canada and in some areas of northern Europe and Central Asia.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 2 to 15 MT/ha, which phytomass could be converted to alcohol or methane.

Biotic Factors

Following fungi have been reported on Tall wheatgrass: Claviceps purpurea, Colletotrichum graminicola, Fusarium elongatum, F. graminearum, F. oxysporum, F. scirpi var. acuminatum and var. compactum, Helminthosporium giganteum, R. sativum, Puccinia coronata f. sp. secalis, P. glumarum, P. graminis, P. montaenensis, P. triticina, Pythium arrhenomanes, Rhizoctonia solani, Ustilago hypodytes and U. spegazzinii var. agrestis. It is also attacked by the Agropyron streak mosaic virus.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 19, 1997