Altai wildrye is a long-lived bunch grass with an extensive root system. It is noted for its high salinity tolerance, capacity to withstand drought, and ability to stay green into the fall. Stems are up to 120 cm (4 ft) tall with mostly basal leaf growth. Leaves are stiff, upright and green to blue-green. Seed heads are thick spikes. Seeds produced are large and shatter easily from the seed head. Altai wildrye has wider, stiffer leaves on more robust plants than Russian wildrye.
Siberia and Mongolia. Varieties developed in Canada.
At least 20 years. Establishment difficult and slow.
Optimal Time of Use
Summer, fall, winter. Altai wildrye grows slower in the spring than many other grasses, but can be grazed once sufficient basal leaves grow. Altai wildrye can be continually or rotationally grazed. Altai wildrye stockpiles well because of its long basal upright leaves that cure well remain accessible for livestock.
Recovery After Use
Requires a minimum 60-80 days of recovery after use. Leave at least 15 cm (6 in) for regrowth to occur. A lighter summer grazing followed by stockpiling can produce a modest yield of high quality forage.
Altai wildrye’s palatability is higher later in the growing season than in spring. A lighter summer grazing followed by stockpiling can produce a modest yield of high quality forage. Altai wildrye has approximately 65% dry matter digestibility and 10% crude protein at maturity in the fall. Quality is held into the winter.
Annual Precipitation min/max (mm)
300mm / 460mm
High tolerance. Deep roots (up to 10 feet deep) can take advantage of deep soil moisture and high water tables. Continues to grow slowly and stay green.
Withstands one to two weeks of spring flooding.
Soil Texture Preference
Altai wildrye establishes best on loam and clay soils, but will grow on all soil textures. It will have excellent production in dry areas with high water tables. Although it can thrive on sandy soils, it requires good moisture during establishment years.
Limited to no use for erosion control.
Moderate to high tolerance.
Seeds per kg
133,000 seeds/kg (60,000 seeds/lb)
Altai wildrye is often seeded alone or in a simple mix with species such as alfalfa or cicer milkvetch. Seeding other forages at 90 degree angles to the altai wildrye rows can decrease interspecies competition.
Ease of Establishment
Altai wildrye seedlings are slow growing and hard to establish. This is a major limiting factor in the use of Altai wildrye. It competes poorly with weeds, companion crops or other forage seedlings. It is noted to take up to three years to fully establish for use.
Altai wildrye is competitive once established. It is a very poor competitor while establishing.
Attentive management of competition during establishment will result in adequate plant populations for optimal production. Altai wildrye remains most productive if it is grazed in the fall. Although a long standing species, it has never been wide spread in popularity.
Saskatchewan Dryland Forage Species Adaptation Tool, USDA Plants Database, Manitoba Forage Adaptation and Comparison Guide, Alberta Forage Manual
Altai wildrye is adapted to the driest areas of the Bunchgrass and Interior Douglas-fir zones in the southern part of the Central Interior, and has in the past been established in demonstration plots in the Bunchgrass zone. It is notoriously difficult to establish, which limits its practical application.
Altai wildrye is adapted to the driest areas of the Bunchgrass, Ponderosa Pine and Interior Douglas-fir zones, and has in the past been established in demonstration plots in the Bunchgrass zone. It is notoriously difficult to establish, which limits its practical application.