Looking for a grass that tolerates salty soils, but is still palatable and productive? NewHy, a hybrid wheatgrass may be the solution.
NewHy is significantly more saline-tolerant than crested and intermediate wheatgrass, and is nearly as saline tolerant as tall wheatgrass, according to Kevin Jensen with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Logan, UT.
But in addition to its salt tolerance, NewHy provides a tremendous amount of forage and retains forage quality late in the season, Jensen says. Livestock also find NewHy more palatable than other salt tolerant species, he says.
Surprisingly the hybrid is a cross between quackgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass. But don't let that scare you.
"NewHy is not as aggressive in spreading as quackgrass," says Mark Majerus with the USDA Plant Materials Center in Bridger, MT. "It doesn't have the weedy nature quackgrass has and stays within the confines of where it's planted."
Developed and released in 1989 by the ARS, NewHy is becoming popular with producers. "Producers can double crop NewHy and still graze it in the fall," says Jensen. The productive hybrid also stockpiles well.
Best Of Both Worlds The NewHy hybrid was developed to combine the vigor, productivity, salt tolerance and persistence of quackgrass with the drought resistance, growth habit, seed quality and forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass.
A long-lived, cool season perennial, NewHy is adapted to semiarid areas such as the Intermountain and Northern Great Plains that receive 13-15 in. of precipitation annually. It may perform well in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Central Plains, but that has yet to be tested, Majerus says.
While NewHy is recommended for use on saline farmland and subirrigated sites, it also works well in saline areas that don't have adequate water for the year. It will produce on saline, dryland conditions, says Jensen.
Although NewHy typically begins growth in early spring, its leaves remain greener and more succulent during late summer than other wheatgrasses, Jensen says.
NewHy yields average 3-4 tons of dry matter/acre. Forage quality can be as high as 17-20% crude protein in early spring and then taper to about 7% in July and August.
Establishment Advice NewHy is relatively easy to establish and has good seedling vigor, according to Majerus. He says seed is becoming readily available.
On dryland range sites seed should be planted late enough in the fall to ensure germination won't occur until the following spring. Spring seedings can be effective, but are risky if weather conditions and excess soil moisture delay planting.
Jensen says NewHy can be established in areas with saline soils and then is able to spread into adjacent areas with higher salinity where plants would not initially establish from seed.
Because of its quackgrass parentage, the hybrid is resistant to moderate grazing pressure after establishment and it recovers rapidly after grazing.
Recommended seeding rates are 7-10 lbs. of pure live seed/acre.
Since NewHy seed is similar in appearance to the quackgrass parent, only certified seed should be purchased.