Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan`s web site have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow text box that resembles the link below and can be found in the right hand rail of the page. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found here:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

The results of software-based translation do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos, and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

Be on the lookout for downy brome in your fields

By: Terry Kowalchuk PAg, Provincial Forage Specialist

Downy brome
Downy brome
Downy brome is an invasive species that germinates at low temperatures (3.5 to 15 C). The plant’s ability to begin growth early gives it a competitive advantage over other plants, especially in dry years. Early germination, a short life-cycle and a dense fibrous root system allow downy brome to make more efficient use of early-season water than perennial grasses. Even in dry years plants can thrive, head out and produce prolific amounts of seed. Once a seed bank has developed, seeds germinate continuously under moist conditions or go dormant during a drought, only to flourish again when moisture returns; this makes downy brome very difficult to eradicate. If not controlled, this rapidly spreading grass can quickly advance into native grass stands, choking out native species.   

Downy brome is easiest to recognize when it has headed out because of its characteristic drooping tuft-like seed head with awns and its “downy” leaves. The seed heads are 5 to 20 cm long, rather dense, slender and drooping, and pale green with a purple tinge. It has up to eight nodding spikelets that are 2 to 4 cm long and have two to eight seeds each.  

Downy brome seed head
Downy brome seed head
There is no biological control for downy brome, so a combination of cultural and chemical control is required. Cultural control includes hand picking, mowing or grazing prior to seed set. Several chemicals can be used for controlling downy brome, but in most cases they must be used early in the spring when non-target species are dormant. Refer to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Guide to Crop Protection for a list of products and procedures.

Although most surface seeds germinate soon after they are shed, buried seeds can remain viable for up to five years, so be prepared to monitor the site and deal with new outbreaks after you have initiated controls. With sustained effort, the seed bank can be exhausted and infestations can be eradicated, but early detection and action greatly increases chances of success.

If you suspect you have downy brome and would like an identification, contact your local Regional Forage or Regional Crops Specialist, or send a sample to the Crop Protection Lab for a fee for service identification. For more information about how to eradicate downy brome, contact the Provincial Ag Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 or

We need your feedback to improve Help us improve