Agropyron desertorum (Gintzburger et al., 2003)

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Aeluropus litoralis
Gintzburger et al., Rangelands in Uzbekistan, 2003
Agropyron desertorum (Gintzburger et al., 2003)
Aristida karelinii
Agropyron desertorum
Agropyron desertorum
Agropyron desertorum
Agropyron desertorum


Agropyron desertorum (Fisch.) Schult.

Local name:

  • Russian: Житняк пустынный, (узкоколосый), (Пырей пустынный), еркек - žitnjak pustynnyj, (uzkokolosyj), (pyrej pustynnyj), erkek
  • Uzbek: Erkek

Chromosome number: 2n = 14, 28 (Peto 1930; Sarkar 1956); 2n = 28, 32 (Knowles 1955).

Description and morphology: Perennial loose, tough bunchgrass (height 25–90 cm). Root system filamentous, extending to depth 1.0– 1.5 m. Life span 20–25 years. Leaves: narrowly linear, flat, rough on upper surface and on margins. Culm: crankshaft form, thin (height 25– 80 cm), leafy. Inflorescence: narrow ear almost cylindrical (2.5–7 cm), overlapping, short-linear spikelet. Spike scales keel shaped with awn (2–4 mm).

Reproduction: Sexual and vegetative (rootstock and rhizomes). Flowering: June–July. Fruit maturation: August. Fruit: kernel; dry, dehiscent, monospermous with fruiting body closely attached to seed coat. Seed: well differentiated embryo, lying at base of seed and surrounded by tough endosperm. Dormancy B1 type. Viable seeds: 84–92%. Laboratory germination: 50–86%. Long-term stratification for 1.5 months or longer at variable temperatures (20/30 °C; 15/30 °C) or chemical treatment stimulates germination. Seed viable for more than 3 years.

Pastoral importance: Excellent forage for all livestock and gazelles before flowering; after flowering, becomes tough and poorly palatable for small ruminants. Very competitive with other plants on range, especially weeds. Drought-resistant, cold-resistant and moderately salt-tolerant, and is recommended for range improvement and/or creation of winterautumn pastures. Also used for hay production in the adyr. Improves soil structure. Often grown in mixtures with Festuca and Stipa. Usually sown at 10 kg clean seed/ha, or in grass mixtures seeding at 6–8 kg/ha on natural rangelands in the foothills. Good winter feed when softened by rain and snow, and is well grazed by all livestock. Able to withstand trampling by animals and overgrazing. Not very profitable in terms of hay production (0.4–0.6 t DM/ha). Expected green forage yield on native pasture is about 0.8–1.5 t/ha. High potential for introduction into cultivated pasture production or improvement (Aidarli kolkhoze and region in Kazakhstan). Recommended for range improvement on solonetz-alkaline soils, especially in Agropyron-Kochia mixture producing up to 1.3 t DM/ha.

Fodder value: High quality forage. During early growth and flowering (% DM): protein 13–18; decreases during winter (4.5); fibre content for this period remains stable around 25–35. Green forage (% DM): ash 7.3; cellulose 10; fat 1.3%; nitrogen-free extract 43. In summer forage value is estimated at 73 FU and 16.0 kg digestible protein/100 kg DM.

Habitat: Mostly meso-xerophyte. In steppe areas grows on loamy clay, clay/light sierozem and solonetz-alkaline soils in semi-arid and arid zones.

Distribution: Southern Volga Valley, northern Caucasus, western Siberia, Aral-Caspian lowlands, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.