Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Department name when degree awarded

Range Science


Cyrus M. McKell


The potential of basin wildrye (Elymus cinereus Scribn. & Merr. 'Magnar') and tall wheatgrass [Agropyron elongatum (Host) Beav. 'Jose '] to establish on saline, arid rangelands in the Great Basin in relation to soil water and salinity was compared in field and laboratory experiments. Tall wheatgrass had higher emergence and establishment on a nonsaline and a saline soil (electrical conductivity of the saturation extract of 7 dS·m-1) over a range of spring precipitation as simulated by sprinkler irrigation. Basin wildrye will require supplemental irrigation to establish on soils of similar salinity. In the absence of precipitation, soil salinity increases and matric and osmotic potentials rapidly decrease as the surface soil dries in late spring. Germination and growth responses in relation to salinity and drought in laboratory experiments were consistent with emergence and establishment results in the field experiments. Tall wheatgrass had higher total germination, rate of germination and radicle growth under decreasing osmotic potentials and higher emergence under decreasing matric potentials than basin wildrye. Tall wheatgrass had greater root and shoot yield than basin wildrye when osmotic potentials in sand cultures were decreased by solutions of NaCl, Na2SO4 and CaCl2.Tall wheatgrass is more tolerant of salt and boron than basin wildrye, but basin wildrye is highly salt tolerant compared to most forage species. Tall wheatgrass had more rapid root elongation and more extensive root growth than basin wildrye seedlings grown in 60-cm soil columns filled with nonsaline and saline soil. Germination and growth of both species was reduced by ions in addition to the effects of water stress due to low osmotic potentials. Rate of germination and radicle growth of both species was less in salts than in isosmotic polyethylene glycol solutions. Seedlings exhibited less growth in saline than nonsaline soil even when plant water stress was minimal or when leaf water potentials were low but turgor was maintained by osmotic adjustment. Germination at low osmotic and matric potentials and root elongation in relation to salinity may be important plant responses to use in evaluating the potential for establishment of new plant materials on saline, arid rangelands.