East Texas Love/Hate Relationship with Bahiagrass

News Column
By: Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent–Ag/NR
Smith County

Bahiagrass

There is a forage species utilized in East Texas that people either have a love or hate relationship with.  That forage species is Bahiagrass.  When I say a love or hate relationship, there are those that either love bahiagrass in their pastures or those that hate bahiagrass in their pastures.

Most people recognize bahiagrass due to the “V-shaped” seed head it produces.  It can be a prolific seed producer.  When allowed to grow tall, it can be difficult to mow.  With the drought of 2011, many bahiagrass stands may have died or declined.  Because it is a good seed producer, many of these pastures will have a lot of regrowth due to a large seed bank in the soil.

Bahiagrass is a warm-season perennial bunch grass that is native to South America.  It was first introduced into the United States in 1913 with common bahiagrass by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.  In 1935 a more productive bahiagrass was found growing along the docks and railroad tracks at Pensacola, Florida.  The Pensacola variety has become the most widely used of all the varieties planted to date.

Bahiagrass has several characteristics that make it valuable as a pasture grass.  Bahiagrass tolerates a wider range of soils than does bermudagrass or dallisgrass.  Compared to hybrid bermudagrass, bahiagrass tends to green up earlier and remain green longer in the fall.  Bahiagrass lacks the drought tolerance seen in bermudagrass in deep, sandy soils in East Texas.  Bahiagrass, because of its thick thatch formation, resists weed encroachment and it tolerates close grazing.  Bahiagrass can also produce moderate levels of dry matter on soils of very low fertility.

With adequate moisture and fertility, bahiagrass can produce good forage for grazing with some varieties even produced for hay.  Bahiagrass has received a bad reputation over the years as compared to bermudagrass.  When you take into consideration of continuously stocked cow herds and circumstances of low fertility, bahiagrass may not be as bad of a forage species.  In instances where management and/or low fertility of bermudagrass fields occur, bahiagrass may be encroaching in these areas anyway.

There are numerous varieties of bahiagrass used in East Texas.  These varieties include Argentine, Common, Paraguay, Paraguay 22, Pensacola, Tifhi-1 and Tifhi-2, Tifton 9, Wilmington, and a newer variety called TifQuik.

Argentine bahiagrass was introduced to Florida from Argentina in 1945.  Argentine has long broad leaves and initiates growth later in the spring.  It is less cold hardy.   Argentine has produced dry matter yields comparable to Coastal bermudagrass in East Texas with adequate fertility.

Paraguay is a short, coarse, narrow-leafed variety.  Paraguay is less productive than Pensacola. Pensacola, however, is a long, narrow leaf variety that is more cold tolerant than Common, Paraguay, and Argentine.  It is a good seed producer.  Disadvantages of Pensacola are lower dry matter yields and forage nutritive value as compared to Coastal bermudagrass.

Tifton 9 has longer leaves and improved seeded vigor as compared to Pensacola.  Tifton 9 has yielded 47% more forage than Pensacola over a 3-year period in Georgia.  At Overton, Tifton 9 has only produced 12% more forage than Pensacola during a 3-year variety trial.

TifQuik is one of the newest varieties of bahiagrass to come out of Georgia.  TifQuik was developed to offer faster germination thus faster establishment in pastures.  In greenhouse studies, germination of TifQuik averaged five times more than Tifton 9 after 6 days and three times more after 8 days.  In field trials, TifQuik emerged about 75 percent faster after 1 week than Tifton 9 or Pensacola. After 4 weeks, TifQuik plants were also taller than both Tifton 9 and Pensacola.  Dry-matter yields of TifQuik were two times higher than Tifton 9 and four times higher than Pensacola for the first cutting occurring two months after planting.

Information on bahiagrass comes from a publication titled Bahiagrass Utilization in East Texas by Dr. Larry Redmon, Extension Forage Specialist.  The TifQuik information from the Agricultural Research Service Information Staff, Sharon Durham, Agricultural Research magazine, April 2008.

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