Index | Search | Home

new crop Logo

Alopecurus pratensis L.

Meadow foxtail

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 unpublished.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


Primarily cultivated as a meadow or pasture grass; where adapted it produces over a long grazing season. Widely used as a hay grass for wetlands in Europe. Quite palatable as pasture or hay. Plants produce an open turf and a dense sod in older stands. It is used as a sown grass in southern Canada and on Pacific Coastal regions of United States, and is included in mixtures to a limited extent for suitable soils in northern Europe.

Folk Medicine

No data uncovered.


On a zero moisture basis, meadow foxtail forage (DM content 26.1%) contains 17.2 g crude protein, 4.6 g fat, 21.5 g crude fiber, 10.7 g ash, and 46.0 g N-free extract. The hay (DM content 85.7 to 88.8%) contains 12.1 to 15.5 crude protein (mean of 2 cases = 13.8), 1.8 to 3.3 g fat (mean of 2 cases = 2.6), 26.9 to 33.1 g crude fiber (mean of 2 cases = 30.0), 7.0 to 10.1 g ash (mean of 2 cases = 8.6), and 44.5 to 45.7 g N-free extract (mean of 2 cases = 45.0).


A long-lived, tufted perennial grass, with short rhizomes and short ascending stolons, tufts loose or compact; culms erect, 30–100 cm tall; leafblades flat, narrow, 2–6 mm broad, glaucous, glabrous; ligules membranous, truncate, 1–2 mm long; panicles cylindric, 3–8 cm long, 7–10 mm broad, very dense with very short branches; spikelets slightly lustrous 4–5 mm long, more or less purplish, soft; glumes membranous, narrowly ovate, 3-veined, obtuse; lemmas shorter than glumes, narrowly ovate, glabrous, smooth; keel scabrous above; awn from near base on back, 6–10 mm long, slender, only very slightly geniculate; achenes fluffy, light colored, rwith an occasional brown or black seed; anthers deep yellow, 2.5–3 mm long. Fl. May–June. Seeds 1,100,000 to 1,270,000/kg.


Reported from the Eurosiberian Center of Diversity, meadow foxtail or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate frost, heat, low pH, poor soil, salt, shade, slope, virus, weeds, and waterlogging (Duke, 1978). Many strains have been developed; some produce a large proportion of leafy growth close to ground, others are steamy and of less value. 'S-55' is a leafy long-lived strain selected for grazing in Great Britain. (2n = 28, 42)


Native to temperate northern Europe and northern Asia, south to North Africa; now widely naturalized in temperate regions throughout the world. Introduced to North America, now occurring from Newfoundland and Labrador to Alaska, south to Delaware, Missouri, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. Especially welladapted to Pacific Northwest and Alaska.


Ranging from Boreal Moist to Rain through Warm Temperate Thorn to Dry Forest Life Zones, meadow foxtail is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3.5 to 17.6 dm (mean of 32 cases = 8.0), annual temperature of 4.4 to 14.8°C (mean of 32 cases = 8.5), and pH of 4.5 to 7.5 (mean of 30 cases = 6.2). Naturally occurs in fields, waste places and grasslands. Adapted to cool, moist temperate climates, very resistant to cold, but will also withstand high summer temperatures. Grows best on deep, moist, fertile soils. It will withstand flooding by fresh or brackish water. Does well under shade, as in orchards, growing well under irrigation, it is not drought resistant.


Propagated by seed. As pasture, it is often seeded with Big trefoil or Ladino clover. Seed rate with legumes alone is 15–28 kg/ha. However, when sown in combination with legumes (Lotus corniculatus, L. uliginosus, Trifolium repens or T. hybridum) and with suitable grasses, as Festuca pratensis or Phleum pratense sown at rate of 2–6 kg/ha. Growth starts early in spring and continues throughout the summer if moisture is sufficient. It remains green in winter and will continue to make growth, provided the temperatures are not too low. The fluffy seeds make machine seeding difficult.


Hay of good quality may be harvested if cut early. Aftermath growth is good. Practically all domestic seed is harvested from naturalized stands in mountainous meadows of Oregon.

Yields and Economics

In fertilization studies in Canada over four years, yields averaged 1,410 to 6,657 kg/ha attaining as high as 8,298 (van Adrichem, 1974). Crude protein yields under much the same conditions ranged from 124 kg/ha with 0 kg N to 939 kg/ha with 224 kg N, attaining as high as 1,123 kg crude protein. This grass has increased in importance in Canada, Pacific United States, and Japan since 1940, mainly as a grazing grass.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 1 to 7 MT/ha. Phytomass such as this is almost equivalent to coal in energy content.

Biotic Factors

Following fungi have been reported on Meadow foxtail: Cephalosporium gramineum, Claviceps microcephala, C. purpurea, Colletotrichum graminicola, Helminthosporium teres, Mastigosporium album, Pestalozzina soraueriana, Puccinia coronata avenae, P. coronifera forma alopecuri, P. graminis, P. perplexans, P. rubigo-vera, Rhynchosporium orthosporum, Rh. secalis, Sclerospora graminicola, Sclerotinia borealis, Scolecotrichum graminis, Ustilago alopecuri, U. alopecurivora. Nematodes isolated from this grass include: Heterodera avenae, H. schachtii, Pratylenchus neglectus, P. penetrans, Subanguina radicicola, and Tylenchus hordei.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 22, 1997