Ideally suited for management intensive grazing systems.
! High tonnage ! Widely adapted and flood tolerant
! Excellent quality forage ! Native warm-season perennial bunchgrass
! Fast regrowth ! Excellent choice for Riparian filter and buffer strips
NOTE the total gain of about 270 lb/acre from the rotation of grazing fescue in the spring, fescue in the summer, and fescue in the fall (see first bar of graph). Compare this to the spring/summer/fall rotation of fescue/gamagrass/ fescue with gains of over 450 lb/acre! The scientists used grazing animals to study palatability and rate of gain from pure stands of various grasses over what was considered to be a full season of grazing (212 days). They carefully clipped forages by hand in ungrazed cages to get more accurate statistics on forage tonnage. This prevents errors caused by damage to forage by trampling and manure. Actual gains will be a bit less than the predicted gain. Authors are Assoc. Professor of Agronomy, forage-crops specialist, C. J. Kaiser and Assoc. Professor of Animal Science, beef-cattle specialist, Daniel B. Faulkner, University of Illinois.
HAVE you ever estimated your livestock’s nutritional requirements or inventoried your pastures’ productivity potential on a per month basis? You may already know your current pasture composition doesn’t match the nutritional needs of your livestock. Are your livestock eating dry/mature cool-season grasses in July instead of lush, palatable eastern gamagrass? As you can observe from the chart above or from your personal experience, cool-season grasses can go dormant in the Summer. This drop in forage production, commonly known as Summer Slump can result in a shortage of nutrients that livestock need for optimal performance. Eastern gamagrass with its warm-season growth pattern naturally fills this void. University research as well as grazers personal experiences confirms impressive increases in livestock production when their nutritional needs are met for the entire grazing period.
Gamagrass Seed Company offers quality seed from two varieties of eastern gamagrass--Pete and Iuka.
· PETE is a composite of seed collections made in 1958 by the Manhattan SCS Plant Materials Center from 70 natural stands of gamagrass in Kansas and Oklahoma. The strain was advanced through the third generation via combine harvesting and replanting of open-pollinated seed.
· IUKA is based on a 500+ plant collection made by the Southern Plains Range Research Station, USDA, ARS, Woodward, Oklahoma. The plants were collected from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas. In 1979 a 21 plant selection based on apparent forage value was made from the original collection. The original selections and their hybrids should be adapted over a large area.
Gamagrass seed is encased in a tough "capsule" made of stem-like material. This capsule protects and isolates the seed from the environment, contributing to a potentially significant degree of seed dormancy in gamagrass. Common seed characteristics are 4000 to 7000 seeds per lb., seed purity of 95 to 99.9%, and total viability of 30 to 90%.
Gamagrass Seed Company sells seed based on the PLS % of the seed. Pure Live Seed % refers to the purity % multiplied by the viable seed %. The recommended planting rate is 8 PLS lbs./acre. For example, an order for 8 PLS lbs. from a seed lot with a PLS % of 50% would require 16 bulk lbs. of seed.
When establishing stands of gamagrass, two planting options are suggested: · SPRING or · DORMANT. It is important to note that native warm-season grasses possess significant levels of seed dormancy. Proven dormancy breaking techniques (PRIMING) are advised to maximize initial stands.
· SPRING PLANTINGS: Plant primed seed when soil temperature is a minimum of 55°F using conventional planting equipment. For correct soil temperature, readings should be taken around 9 AM at your planned seed planting depth.
PRE-CHILLING is one priming process used break dormancy in seed for spring plantings. This process consists of keeping moist seed in cold storage for 6 to 8 weeks. IMPORTANT: Moist pre-chilled seed needs to be kept moist to maximize germination. Plant only if adequate soil moisture is present. Because the seed is shipped moist, it is perishable and must be planted upon arrival or put back in cold storage (35--45°F). DO NOT FREEZE!
· DORMANT PLANTINGS: The concept behind dormant plantings is to turn the seed priming efforts back to nature. This is an option only where winters are cold enough to provide several months of soil temperatures below 50°F. Plantings should be made after soil temperatures have dropped below 50°F beginning in late fall. This prevents seed from germinating and reduces mold activity. To improve viability in dormant plantings, fungicide treated seed is recommended. Mid January to mid February plantings appear to be more effective than earlier or later plantings. Earlier plantings may increase seed mortality, while less seed may break dormancy if planted later. A dormant planting may not be your best choice in heavy textured, poorly drained soils, since seed is more likely to deteriorate. Consider a spring planting on these sites.
· WEED CONTROL: Gamagrass, like many plants, can get off to a faster start when weed competition is minimized. Ask yourself, “Would I expect corn plants to thrive in this environment?” If not, take action to reduce weed competition to get your stand fully established and start utilizing it sooner.
If gamagrass is planted in rows, cultivation can be used in early years of establishment. In various studies, gamagrass has shown excellent tolerance to potentially harmful carryover from some of today's commonly used corn herbicides (i.e., atrazine, Dual®, Lasso®, Harness®, Bladex®, Accent®, 2,4-D, etc.). Contact us for up-to-date information.
· PLANTER SETTINGS: With suitable equipment, gamagrass can be planted into a variety of seedbeds from conventional to no-till. Gamagrass Seed Company customers receive additional information concerning planting equipment and adjustments in the Planting Equipment Calibration sheet.
The main planting objectives are uniform seed depth and good seed to soil contact. Seed should be planted 1 to 1.5 inches deep in medium textured soils or a little deeper in lighter textured soils that may dry out faster. The depth of seeding is based on factors that affect soil moisture such as soil texture, residue cover, temperature, wind, etc. The goal is to place the seed just deep enough to stay in adequate moisture for a sufficient amount of time to allow germination to take place.
· OVER-SEEDING & NO-TILL NOTES: Several potential problems should be addressed to insure successful stand establishment. In sod plantings, opener slots made by planting equipment provide a fracture line that can open up during dry weather. This can effectively reduce planting depth or even expose the seed, allowing it to dry out; compensate by increasing seed depth. When no-tilling into a killed sod, the length of time since the complete kill of the sod was achieved is often critical. It may be necessary to wait three to four weeks after the sod is killed to allow populations of damaging insects to decrease to insignificant levels. An alternative to waiting would be the use of an in-furrow insecticide. Consult your local extension office for information concerning potential insect damage and possible control measures. Fast stand establishment is very difficult in a living sod. Competition from existing vegetation and feeding insects will reduce plant development, vigor, and plant population.
· ROW SPACINGS: Since gamagrass is a bunchgrass, established plants can have substantial bases. These can be rough to drive over with equipment. If haying is likely, consider planting in rows wide enough to minimize tire traffic on plants. Gamagrass stores a significant portion of its food reserves in the above ground portion of the plant base. Reduction of traffic on the plant crowns will result in less plant damage and faster regrowth.
Initially, 25 to 40 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer can be used in the planting year to promote seedling development Native grasses normally require several years to become fully established. You will be rewarded in the long term by allowing your stand to fully develop its extensive root system. This likely means there should be no forage harvest in the first year, one forage harvest late in the second year, and full production the third year.
· DOUBLE CROPPING: During the first year some producers wish to continue growing an income producing crop such as corn or sorghum in tandem with the establishment of gamagrass. While this sounds like a feasible idea, a couple of precautions should be noted. Like weeds, any double crop will compete with gamagrass seedling for moisture and light. After consideration, if you choose to double crop consider a thin stand of a low shade producing crop, such as sorghum, sweet corn or popcorn.
· COMPANION CROPS: Our advice is “first become familiar with the characteristics of gamagrass and ways to optimize its production potential.” Only then consider a companion crop for nitrogen fixation and/or improved forage quality. It is very difficult to make specific recommendations for suitable legume companions for individual situations. A satisfactory legume choice takes into consideration a long list of factors including: soil pH, type and fertility; climate (moisture availability and temperature); frequency and duration of grazing or haying; etc.
· FERTILIZATION: Gamagrass is an efficient user of existing nutrient supplies. It can continue to respond with increasing production as higher levels of fertilizer are applied if moisture and other growth factors are adequate. After gamagrass is established, soil test and use corn fertility recommendations as a guideline.
· BURNING: Fields may be burned to control woody plants, reduce foliar diseases, improve grazing distribution, and stimulate new growth. Burn fields in spring when new growth is about 1" long. Contact your local fire department for a burn permit and training before doing a prescribed burn.
· HAYING: Normal cutting dates in the Midwest are about June 1, July 15, and Sept. 1. Gamagrass produces excellent quality hay when harvested in the early boot stage. Do not cut lower than 6 to 8 inches.
· GRAZING: Because gamagrass is often favored over other grasses by grazing animals, it is easier to manage as a pure stand. It thrives under short duration, high density rotational grazing programs with adequate rest periods. Managers can realize maximum production and stand longevity by grazing no lower than 6 to 8 inches. To maintain long-term vigor of gamagrass stands, stop usage 30 to 45 days before average first fall frost date. If you wish to use gamagrass as a winter stockpiled feed, stop usage earlier in the growing season to allow adequate regrowth before frost. Graze only after a hard freeze.
Impressive Eastern Gamagrass
by Reggie Quiett, Area Range Conservationist SCS
Eastern Gamagrass . . . can it be established? Will it perform? These are questions that we have all asked ourselves. The following is a trial that was planted near Vernon, TX on Wendell Mint's property with the help of the SCS (Danny Havins, DC, Vernon, has worked closely with Mints on this trial).
1. Two varieties, Pete and Iuka, were planted side by side on Feb. 2, 1992.
2. Total acres planted were 12.5. Soils consisted of a Tiptom loam, and Miles and Enterprise fine sandy loams; all are upland soils.
3. Planted at about five PLS lbs. per acre in 40 in. rows with a cotton planter.
4. Average rainfall for Wilbarger County is 25 inches.
5. Chemical weed control applied in spring of 1992 and 1993.
6. Fertilized on August 15, 1992 with 46 lbs of actual N.
7. Fertilized on April 15, 1993 with 46 lbs of actual N.
8. Hayed on May 18, 1993. Sample taken, and analysis
9. showed 10.5% crude protein with a digestibility of 60%.
10. After haying, it was fenced into five pastures using a one-wire electric fence.
11. First grazed on May 28, 1993 with a total of 24 stocker calves (500 lb.) and one pair. The rotation was to graze each pasture five to seven days.
12. Fertilized again on July 1, 1993 with 20 lb. N.
13. On July 20, 1993, the stocking rate increased to a total of 42 stocker calves (600 lb.) and one pair.
14. Fecal sample taken on July 27, 1993. The results were 13.52% crude protein and 63.86% DOM.
15. All calves (18 heifers and 24 steers) were sold on Sept. 10, 1993. A total of 324.8 lbs. of beef per acre had been produced. The average selling price was $.8725/lb. This is $283.38/acre.
16. Personally, these results have answered my questions. Maybe they answered yours also.
Forage Quality of Eastern Gamagrass
(Avoid direct comparison between varieties due to different growing conditions, locations, cutting dates, etc.)
DRY MATTER BASIS CUTTING DATES CUTTING DATES
Components 6/20/89 7/27/89 9/27/89 6/21/90 8/08/90 9/01/90
Crude Protein% 19.0 15.2 10.8 13.3* 11.2* 12.3*
Acid Det. Fiber % 33.0 33.0 36.0 46.1 41.0 42.2
Neutral Det. Fiber % 62.0 62.0 70.0 72.8 68.2 68.4
TDN % 67.0 66.0 64.0 60.3* 67.3* 66.6*
Net Energy (Lac.) Mcal/lb. .60 .59 .54 .51 .58 .56
Calcium % .66 .53 .43 .42 .47 .48
Phosphorous % .44 .30 .32 .29 .25 .27
Magnesium % .17 .25 .20 .18 .16 .17
Potassium % 2.72 2.01 1.63 3.41 2.84 2.96
`PETE' EASTERN GAMAGRASS - SCS BIG FLATS PLANT MATERIALS CENTER, CORNING, NEW YORK, 1989. Dickerson, J. A. and van der Grinten, M. 1990. Developing eastern gamagrass as a haylage crop for the northeast.
`IUKA' EASTERN GAMAGRASS - GAMAGRASS SEED COMPANY, 1990, FALLS CITY, NEBRASKA. [*] = Chemical Analysis (Wet Chemistry) All other values determined using (NIR)
Forage Production Potential of Eastern Gamagrass
POUNDS DRY FORAGE PER ACRE (3 reps) 1
Date Harvested Average lbs/A
Summer total 20,015
1 This production test was done on a three year old stand of Pete under irrigation and high fertility (240 lb N). Production ranged from 17,313 to 21,843 lbs/A with 1,792 lbs/A standard deviation and 9% CV. All weights are based on oven dry measurements. Source: USDA, Agriculture Research Station, Southern Great Plains Range Research Station, Woodward, Oklahoma. 1/29/15