Intermediate Wheatgrass
Intermediate Wheatgrass

Intermediate Wheatgrass

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Intermediate wheatgrass is a sod-forming perennial grass native to Europe and Western Asia which has been naturalized on the prairies of North America for nearly 100 years. It is an excellent forage crop and has an extensive root system which contributes a lot of fibre to the soil and provides good erosion control.

In the late 20th century work was done (first by Rodale and subsequently by The Land Institute) to select Thinopyrum as a seed crop, especially selecting for larger seeds and greater seed yield. This work is proceeding successfully but it will be many years before the seed yield equals that of wheat. Still, it is nutritionally similar to wheat and if it is grown at wide spacing (30” - 36”) it maintains its seed yield for a decade.

We recently received a sample of Thinopyrum seed which was grown in Saskatchewan. Jim has cleaned it and separated it into 2 fractions - seed that is completely free of hulls, and hulled seed. Strongly rubbing and winnowing the seed removes most of the hulls.

Thinopyrum can be grown both for forage and seed production and, for this purpose, it is usually intercropped with a legume. Seeding is usually in early fall - late August to early September. When grown as a seed crop it is usually known as kernza. In our sample, 100 plump seeds weigh somewhat under a gram, a big increase over the seed size from the wild plant, but 100 seeds of bread wheat weigh around 5g. It has been suggested that it will take 100 years of selection/breeding to approach the yield and seed size of wheat so there is lots of work we can do.

We are offering 2g packets of seed, of the de-hulled fraction. This is a perennial grass but if you wish to work on its improvement, we suggest that you select the best seeds and/or plants and use this seed to plant a new patch each year. For more information see Thinopyrum intermedium on wikipedia.

Thinopyrum intermedium