Warm-season Grasses

warm season grassesWarm-season grasses are generally categorized as species that excel during the hottest months and die or go dormant during cooler seasons. The category of warm-season grasses most often includes summer annuals that can be grown throughout the U.S. or the perennial grasses of the South.

Warm-season grasses generally germinate or break dormancy when soil temperatures exceed 60 to 65 degrees F. Growth slows as fall temperatures cool and the plants shut down after a killing freeze. These species are known for drought tolerance and thriving in extreme heat and are very valuable in a forage program in the North and South. While many warm-season grass products offer good forage quality, as a whole, cool-season grasses are higher in forage quality.

Unlike cool-season grasses, warm-season species are rarely mixed. There are few warm-season forage perennials and annuals are generally planted in a pure stand.

Bahiagrass

A species well adapted to the Gulf Coast and up to South Carolina, bahiagrass is a sod-forming grass that has equal to lower forage quality to bermudagrass. It is very tolerant of poor fertility, sandy soils, and heavy grazing. However, it generally yields much less than bermudagrass. It is relatively easy to establish.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 20 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ¼ inch
  • Forage Quality: Medium
  • Yield Potential: Poor
  • Longevity: Excellent
  • Winter Hardiness: Poor
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent

Bermudagrass

A sod-forming grass adapted to the Southeast, southern Plains and Southwest. With heavy applications of nitrogen, bermudagrass can produce huge yields – up to 15 tons dry matter per acre per year. It is tolerant of many soil types and can withstand heavy grazing pressure. Bermudagrass can be fairly good quality at younger growth stages, but quickly becomes only fair quality. In recent years, improved seeded varieties allow for affordable, quick establishment.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 10-15 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ¼ inch
  • Forage Quality: Medium
  • Yield Potential: Excellent
  • Longevity: Excellent
  • Winter Hardiness: Poor
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent

Millets

Millets are warm-season annuals used for various purposes. Some are excellent for hay and/or grazing while others are used for wildlife plots (upland birds and waterfowl eat the seeds). Millets are generally very drought tolerant and love heat, and they germinate and grow quickly. The types used for forage are commonly used as an emergency crop, after early season droughts have limited other forage options. However, some types, such as hybrid pearl millet, are good quality and could be used an any forage rotation program.

Brown Top Millet

Brown top millet is adapted to the well-drained soils of the Southeast. It is used grazing and hay. Brown top millet thrives in low soil pH, low fertility soils. It establishes quickly and can be a good option for erosion control. Forage quality is good while plants are young.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 30-40 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ½ inch
  • Forage Quality: Medium
  • Yield Potential: Excellent
  • Longevity: Summer Annual
  • Winter Hardiness: N/A
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent

German Millet

German millet is a popular hay-type of millet that has relatively leafy, with thin stems. If harvested in prior to going to seed, it makes sweet hay with fair palatability.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 20-30 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ½ inch
  • Forage Quality: Medium
  • Yield Potential: Excellent
  • Longevity: Summer Annual
  • Winter Hardiness: N/A
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent

Hybrid Pearl Millet

With the best forage quality of the popular millets, hybrid pearl millet can be used for any forage purpose – hay, haylage, pasture, silage, etc. It does not produce prussic acid and can be used for beef and dairy cattle, as well as horses. Grazing should not begin until it is 24 inches tall, and allow cattle to graze down to 4 to 6 inches before rotating off. After the stand re-grows to 20 to 24 inches tall, grazing can begin again. Test for nitrates before grazing, especially during dry periods. When used for hay, cut prior to heading or at a height of 30 to 40 inches.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 15-20 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ½ to ¾ inch
  • Forage Quality: Medium-Excellent
  • Yield Potential: Excellent
  • Longevity: Summer Annual
  • Winter Hardiness: N/A
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent

Japanese Millet

Because it grows quickly, tall and course, along with maturing quickly, Japanese millet is poor-quality forage. It is occasionally is used for soil stabilization on construction sites. It is most commonly used for waterfowl food. Dry areas (that flood in the fall) are seeded in the summer, the plant heads out, and the birds eat the seeds.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 15-20 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ½ inch
  • Forage Quality: Poor
  • Yield Potential: Poor-Medium
  • Longevity: Summer Annual
  • Winter Hardiness: N/A
  • Drought Tolerance: Medium-Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Medium-Excellent

Proso Millets (Dove, Red, White)

Proso millets are generally used for bird food whether for harvesting for birdseed or for bird food plots. Forage quality it usually poor.

  • Seeding Rate (Pure Stand): 40 lbs/acre
  • Seeding Depth: ½ inch
  • Forage Quality: Poor
  • Yield Potential: Poor
  • Longevity: Summer Annual
  • Winter Hardiness: N/A
  • Drought Tolerance: Excellent
  • Heat Tolerance: Excellent