Ag Biz News Column
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Will I Need to Replant My Pastures?
Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) is a warm-season perennial forage that over the years has become the basis of many forage systems across the southern United States. It is well adapted to our climate and grows well under a wide array of soil types and conditions. Bermudagrass has been part of agriculture of the Southern United States for over 250 years.
Bermudagrass is native to southeast Asia. Bermudagrass produces well but it must be fertilized for maximum production. Several factors contribute to bermudagrass yields; water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Bermudagrass is a deep-rooted, sod forming grass that spreads by stolons and rhizomes. It can grow 15 to 24 inches tall under the right conditions.
With the recent drought we have had in Texas, some are asking “Will my grass come back in my pastures?” The answer is it depends. If we continually grazed our drought stressed fields and did not give them a rest, we may need to replant. If we had hay fields or pastures that we did not cut or grazed too short and we maintained a good, healthy root system, some grasses should come back this spring and summer.
There are numerous cultivars of Bermudagrass for East Texas both seeded and hybrid. Seeded varieties include Cheyenne, Common, Guymon, Giant (NK-37), Wrangler, Pasto Rico, Ranchero Frio, Sungrazer, Sungrazer Plus, Texas Tough, Texas Tough Plus, and Tierra Verde. Seeded varieties work well in small acreages that are not economical to sprig or in areas where steep slopes and seedbed preparation is difficult.
Bermudagrass hybrids are essentially sterile meaning they may produce seed heads but little viable seeds are the results. Hybrids must propagate vegetatively through sprigs or green tops. Hybrid varieties include Alicia, Brazos, Callie, Coastal, Coastcross-1, Grazer, Hardie, Jiggs, La Grange, Lancaster, Luling, Midland, Tifton 85, and Sheffield to name a few. Generally, hybrids if managed properly, offer more dry matter, better nutrition, greater drought tolerance, and/or greater cold tolerance.
With the 2011 drought, most places had little options on rotational grazing their bermudagrass. As livestock consumed the forage, it did not readily come back due to lack of water. With repeated grazing, the root system of the bermudagrass was really stressed. With no rest to these grasses, the results were shallow-rooted grasses. With management and rest, some pastures and hayfields should come back while others may need to be replanted. Weed control this spring will be essential as well as applications of a balanced fertilizer to help our stressed forages. Weeds can rob our grasses of much needed water and nutrients.
Management decisions on seeded or hybrid bermudagrass for those interested in this warm season forage will need to be made. Some may even look at other types of warm season forage for their livestock system. Whatever forage you go with, be sure to follow soil test recommendations for fertilization. Pay close attention to stocking rates and weed infestations. Stocking rates may need to be adjusted to give our pastures some assistance as we come out of the drought. The best management against a weed problem is prevention. Proper stocking rates and good fertility encourages a vigorous stand of desirable forage that can effectively compete with weed species. Scout pastures during the growing season for insect infestations such as armyworms and grasshoppers. With rainfall and good growing conditions, we can all become grass farmers for our livestock production systems.
Both seeded and hybrid bermudagrass both have their place in East Texas. Which one fits your needs will be up to you and the results you desire.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Smith County will be offering an Irrigation and Rainfall Insurance program on Thursday, March 15, at the Smith County Extension Office located at 1517 West Front St., Suite 116 in the Cotton Belt Building room 116. This program will begin at 5:30 p.m. with an evening meal with the program to follow at 6:00 p.m. Topics will be irrigation for East Texas pastures and hayfields as well as rainfall insurance. For more information or to R.S.V.P, contact our office at (903) 590-2980.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.