SALTBUSHES. Atriplex, spp. Chenopodiacem.
The saltbushes, or saltbrushes, as they are some times called, are low, shrubby, much -branched plants, valuable as forage only where the condi tions of soil or moisture will not permit of the growing of more palatable crops, such as the grasses, clovers and vetches. They are among the few plants that are tolerant of alkali. Where the winters are cold they are often annual, but in California and the Southwest they are perennial.
Many miles of range country in eastern Oregon, eastern Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are covered by saltbushes. In fact, a large proportion of the range feed in many of the western states, during the fall and winter months, consists of one or more of the annual or perennial saltbushes. The greater part of this area could not produce any other forage crop, owing to the abundance of alkali in the soil and the scarcity of water.
Experiments are now in progress, notably at the Arizona Experiment Station, to introduce some of the most promising native species on the depleted stock ranges. The efforts are meeting with some degree of success, and it is to be hoped that some sure methods of sowing on the open ranges may be devised.
Native and introduced saltbushes.
The American species of economic value are shad scale (Atriplex canescens), Nuttall's salt sage (A.
Nuttallii), spiny salt sage (A. confertifolia), scrub saltbush, Utah saltbush (A. truncata) and tumbling saltbush (.1. volutans). Of these, the shad scale is of most importance [see page 310].
Of the introduced saltbushes, several types are now in cultivation, all native of Australia. These are : the Australian salthush (Atriplex semibaecata), slender saltbush (A. leptocarpa), gray saltbush (A. halimoides), round-leaved saltbush (A. nurnmularia) and annual or bladder saltbush (A. holocarpa). Of these, only the Australian saltbush has attained any large degree of prominence from an agricul tural standpoint. So far it has proved of perma nent value only in California and, to some extent, in Arizona.
Saltbushes are generally raised from seeds, though cuttings may be used. On alkali soils the
seed should be sown early, on the surface of the soil and rolled lightly. In such soils, if the seed is covered it usually rots and fails to come up. On non-alkaline soils it may be slightly covered with advantage. One-eighth of an inch deep is sufficient. If the seed is placed much deeper than this the per centage of sprouted seed will be greatly reduced. On the alkali soils in California seeding should be done early in October, before the rains come. It may be an advantage to start the seeds in boxes and transplant to the field in rows about seven feet apart on alkali soils, and four feet apart on light soils, the plants being placed one to four feet apart in the rows.
The chief use of the Australian saltbush is for soiling purposes. If it is fed green with straw, stock does fairly well on it. The best method is to change the feed gradually, as animals usually do not care for salthush until they have acquired a liking for it. At first, only a little of the saltbush hay should be fed with a considerable quantity of meadow hay ; then, by degrees the quantity of meadow hay should be diminished until the pro portions are about equal.
The dried-up annual species are eaten to a con siderable extent during the fall and winter, and the seeds which collect underneath the perennials are liked by both cattle and sheep as a sort of relish.
Although no digestion experiments have been conducted to determine the nutritive value of the saltbushes, yet their chemical composition indicates that they are of good quality.
Farmers' Bulletin No. 108, United States De partment of Agriculture ; Wyoming Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 63; California Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 125; Division of Agrostology, United States Department of Agriculture, Bulletin No. 13, p. 21 ; Division of Botany, Bulletin No. 27; Arizona Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 38, p. 291 ; Idaho Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 38, p. 260; South Dakota Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 69, p. 39 ; Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletins, No. 4, p. 17 ; No. 13, p. 68; No. 59, pp. 51, 56.