Range kochia - not to be confused with the kochia weed - is a perennial species gaining popularity in the West.
Also called forage or prostrate kochia, it's a semi-evergreen subshrub from southern Eurasia. Its high drought tolerance allows it to thrive with 4-12" of annual precipitation.
"It's a valuable late summer, fall and winter forage on our rangeland," says Mike Zielinski of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Winnemucca, NV, field office. "It keeps its protein value during summer and winter." Protein levels range from about 9% during winter to over 13% in summer.
"It's a fairly hardy plant that you can graze pretty hard," says Zielinski. BLM has been using forage kochia in his district since about 1990, and he finds it's easy to establish. "We can broadcast or drill it," he says. "We prefer to drill or cover it, but it'll grow just by broadcasting it on the surface."
For optimal stands, drill seed no deeper than 1/16" and broadcast in fall or winter. Recommended range seeding rate: 1 lb/acre.
Once established, range kochia competes with annual weeds, like cheatgrass, reducing their density. But it doesn't spread like annual kochia.