Native warm season grass management
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Native Warm Season Grass Management. Brian Jones Extension Agronomist. Native Warm Season Grasses. Grasses were historically native Provided most of the forage for early settlers Free roaming livestock and overgrazing Grow during the warm months of the year Dormant during autumn and winter

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Native warm season grass management

Native Warm Season Grass Management

Brian JonesExtension Agronomist


Native warm season grasses

Native Warm Season Grasses

  • Grasses were historically native

    • Provided most of the forage for early settlers

    • Free roaming livestock and overgrazing

  • Grow during the warm months of the year

  • Dormant during autumn and winter

    • Opposite life cycle than that of cool season grasses (tall fescue, etc.)


Many species

Many Species

  • Big bluestem

  • Little bluestem

  • Broomsedge bluestem

  • Indiangrass

  • Switchgrass

  • Sideoats grama

  • Eastern gamagrass


Big bluestem

Big Bluestem

  • Height of 8-9 feet

  • Fine silky hairs near the base of upper leaf

  • Seedhead resembles turkey foot

  • Extremely drought tolerant

  • Extensive root system (12 feet deep)

  • Wildlife and forage


Little bluestem

Little Bluestem

  • Grows 2-4 feet

  • Stem flattened at base

  • Red or purplish during early growth

  • Mature plants reddish-brown

  • Quality wildlife habitat


Switchgrass

Switchgrass

  • Grows 6 to 10 feet

  • Early maturing

  • Flowers in early to mid-June

  • Extensive root system

  • Extremely drought tolerant

  • Also tolerant to wet soils

  • Wildlife and forage


Questions

QUESTIONS?


Uses of wsg

Uses of WSG

  • Wildlife habitat


Wsg for wildlife habitat

WSG for Wildlife Habitat

  • Primary importance is cover, more often limiting factor

    • Early successional

    • Aerial predator prevention

  • NOT for “food plots”


Wsg for wildlife habitat1

WSG for Wildlife Habitat

  • “Bunch type” grasses

  • Open space at ground level

    • Allows mobility for small wildlife

  • Attractive for brood rearing

  • Also for nesting

  • Leaves remain erect, avoiding thatch buildup


Wsg for wildlife habitat2

WSG for Wildlife Habitat

  • Winter cover

  • Tall species provide protection from wind, rain and snow


Uses of wsg1

Uses of WSG

  • Wildlife habitat

  • Erosion control


Wsg for erosion control

WSG for Erosion Control

  • WSG are excellent choice for sites not suitable for cropping

  • Highly erodible soils, rocky soils, riparian buffers, field corners

  • Field borders can increase quail and songbird populations, while still maintaining productivity

    • Usually less productive areas anyway (shading)


Uses of wsg2

Uses of WSG

  • Wildlife habitat

  • Erosion control

  • Biofuel production


Wsg for bio fuel production

WSG for Bio-Fuel Production

  • Biofuels are renewable carbon-based energy sources

  • Typically think of switchgrass

  • Energy from:

    • Cellulosic ethanol production

    • Direct combustion or co-firing

  • Market has not developed


Uses of wsg3

Uses of WSG

  • Wildlife habitat

  • Erosion control

  • Biofuel production

  • Forage production


Wsg for forage production

WSG for Forage Production

  • Useful for both grazing and harvested forage

  • Highly productive during summer months

  • If managed can be high yielding and nutritious


The fit for warm season grasses

The “fit” for Warm Season Grasses

  • Can complement current pasture and hay rotations

  • Highly palatable prior to heading

  • Most productive from June to September

  • Help to overcome the “summer slump” in our cool season species


Grazing wsg

Grazing WSG

  • Will not tolerate close, continuous grazing or cutting

    • will see yield decrease the following year

  • Must utilize some form of rotational grazing system to maximize yield and quality


Grazing management

Grazing Management

  • In VA: may begin grazing ESTABLISHED stands at the end of May/early June

    • Breaks winter dormancy in late April

    • Greens up early

  • Begin grazing at 12-18”

  • Graze to a height of 8-10”

  • Avoid overgrazing!


Grazing management1

Grazing Management

  • Allow at least 5 weeks for 28-32” of new growth before grazing again

  • Consider haying if growth exceeds demand to maintain quality

  • May also creep graze very effectively

  • Grazing period ends in late August

    • Plant must have reserves going into winter


Grazing preference

Grazing Preference


Grazing productivity

Grazing Productivity

  • Yield and animal gain are potentially high if managed correctly

  • VA research indicates 1 acre may support as much as 2.2 AU (0.45 acres/AU)

  • Gains of over 2 lbs/day have been reported

  • Avoid temptation to return to paddocks too early, must have adequate regrowth


Cutting management

Cutting Management

  • Manage differently than cool season hay

  • Research shown that one harvest is typically optimal

    • Two or more harvests per year have actually decreased total yield, and limited further yield

  • Maximum yield observed at anthesis (flowering), however quality suffers


Switchgrass quality over time

Switchgrass Quality over Time

mid-boot

vegetative

20% emerged

Burns et al., NC State


Questions1

QUESTIONS?


Wsg establishment

WSG Establishment

  • Turns more people off than anything else

  • Can be difficult, but not impossible


Wsg establishment1

WSG Establishment

Top five reasons stands fail:

  • Planted too deep

    • Do not plant deeper than ¼”

    • Should see as much as 30% of seed on surface


Wsg establishment2

WSG Establishment

Top five reasons stands fail:

  • Planted too deep

  • Inadequate weed control


Wsg establishment weed control

WSG Establishment: weed control

  • WSG do not compete well

  • Control perennial cool-season grass stands in the fall prior to planting

    • Graze/hay/mow closely

    • Apply burndown herbicides

  • Control summer annual and perennial competitors

    • Pre-emergence herbicide for broadleaf and selective grass control


Wsg establishment3

WSG Establishment

Top five reasons stands fail:

  • Planted too deep

  • Inadequate weed control

  • Planted too late

    • No later than mid-April to end of May


Wsg planting date and methods

WSG Planting Date and Methods

  • Avoid planting too late:

    • Germination and growth reduced (plants need moisture early)

    • Greater levels of weed competition


Wsg planting date and methods1

WSG Planting Date and Methods

  • May be broadcast or drilled

  • Drilling preferred: better seeding rate control

    • Specialized seed box required

      • WSG seed are very fluffy, difficult to flow through drill

    • Reduced tillage very successful with proper drill

  • If broadcasting consider using a carrier (pelletized lime, fertilizer, cracked corn, etc)

    • Broadcasting will required thorough tillage followed by cultipacking


Wsg establishment4

WSG Establishment

Top five reasons stands fail:

  • Planted too deep

  • Inadequate weed control

  • Planted too late

  • Drill not calibrated / PLS not calculated

    • Determine PLS from seed label

    • Buy certified seed

    • Lower seed purity and germination (inherent dormancy)


Improving germination of wsg

Improving Germination of WSG

  • WSG (esp. switchgrass) have a high dormancy rate (survival mechanism)

    • Some clear cut areas will have switchgrass emerge after 100+ years

  • Break dormancy by stratification

    • Wet chilling process involves soaking then storing in a cool location and then drying

    • May buy cold-stratified seed


Wsg establishment5

WSG Establishment

Top five reasons stands fail:

  • Planted too deep

  • Inadequate weed control

  • Planted too late

  • Drill not calibrated / PLS not calculated

  • No patience!

    • Stands can take up to a year to become established


Other considerations for wsg

Other considerations for WSG

  • Seeding rates

    • Depend on objectives

    • Wildlife require a more open stand (4 – 6 lb PLS)

    • For pasture and hayfields, plant 8 – 12 lb PLS


Other considerations for wsg1

Other considerations for WSG

  • Mixtures

    • Consider mixing variety of species for wildlife

      • Tall mixes: bluestems, indiangrass, switchgrass

      • Shorter mixes: little bluestem, sideoats grama

    • Grazing or haying

      • May mix switchgrass with either big or little bluestem

  • Forage use efficiency is the key


Management flow chart

Management flow chart


Questions or comments

QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?


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