Selecting Bermudagrass for Pastures, by Mario Villarino
I received a phone call last week from a local rancher who wanted to learn about the seed varieties that grow “the best” in our county. After thinking about it, I respond to him in the best and simplest way possible. Growing Bermuda pastures is not easy.
The main reason is that there are too many “moving” parts (soil pH, moisture, weather, nutrient availability, weeds, etc.) to make it a simple process. So, I decided to expand on this for the benefit of everyone in our county here.
The best Bermuda varieties based on dry matter yield are not seeded varieties but selected seedless varieties. Most seedless varieties are sprayed and the process adds cost to their creation.
According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, seeded varieties perform well on small, uneconomical branch areas, as well as on steep slopes and clear-cut forests where seed bed preparation for spraying is not possible.
Most seeded bermudagrass on the market is a mixture containing two to four lines, or single cultivars, often containing Giant (NK 37) and Common. The components of some of the blends on the market are shown in Table 5. Table 6 compares the dry matter yields of several varieties seeded in Overton, Texas. The percentage of each line in the mix may vary from year to year, depending on seed availability and cost.
Cheyenne is a hybrid between bermudagrass from an ancient grassland site in the Pacific Northwest and another plant from the former Yugoslavia. Originally released as a turf grass, it was promoted as a pasture variety by the mid-1990s. Like common bermudagrass, Cheyenne establishes quickly. In a 5-year evaluation trial at Overton (Table 2), Cheyenne produced the lowest dry matter yield of seeded Bermuda grasses.
Highly variable in appearance, Common responds favorably to good management and grows under almost every conceivable condition throughout East Texas. Depending on its location, common grass may be considered a forage grass, a weed, or a noxious weed. Because its performance is well established, it is often used as a criterion for evaluating new materials. Common dry matter yields are generally about one-third lower than coastal ones, and their feed nutritional value and feed quality are about the same. It is generally more winter hardy than hybrids.
Guymon, a variety developed from strains found in the former Yugoslavia, grows near Guymon, Oklahoma. It is winter hardy, has large stems, and can be grown in the northern part of the bermudagrass growing region. In Texas, Guymon produces less dry matter than common bermudagrass.
Giant is a strain of common bermudagrass that grows straighter, is less likely to form a turf, has longer leaves, finer stems, fewer roots and fronds, and has no down (fine, downy hairs). It begins growing later in the spring than common bermudagrass and is not cold tolerant. In harsh winters, damage can be high. However, the loss appears to be related to disease damage and reduced fertility rather than as a direct result of lower temperatures. Giant does well in climates with low humidity. It is susceptible to leaf spot disease, and dry matter production decreases within 2 to 3 years due to cold weather and diseases. The plantings usually become a common Bermuda grass stand.
Wranglers are very hardy and produce good cover during the establishment season. Forage productivity can be higher than that of Guymon.
Classified Bermuda grass blends
Pasto Rico is a blend of Giant (NK-37) and common Bermuda grass that contains both hulled and unhulled seeds.
Ranchero Frio: Ranchero Frio is a blend of Giant Bermuda (NK-37) and Cheyenne. Over the course of a 3-year trial, it placed near the bottom in the bermudagrass evaluation trial, averaging 4,613 pounds of dry matter per acre (Table 2).
The Sungrazer is a mixture of the KF 194 and the Wrangler.
Sungrazer Plus is a mixture of giant bermudagrass, KF 194, and CD 90160.
Texas is tough
Texas Tuff is a mixture of seeded bermudagrass that consists of one-third giant bermudagrass and two-thirds common bermudagrass, half hulled and half unhulled. In Overton, Texas, a 5-year study found that Texas Tough was the most productive of the seed varieties in the trial, averaging 7,496 pounds of dry matter per acre.
Texas Tough Plus
Texas Tough Plus is a blend of common, giant and majestic seeded Bermuda grasses mixed for grazing or hay production.
Tierra Verde, like Texas Tough, is a mix of giant and regular bermudagrass. The Tierra Verde blend is 50 percent peeled and unpeeled giant and 50 percent combined peeled and unpeeled. A 5-year variety evaluation trial at Overton found that Tierra Verde averaged 6,967 pounds of dry matter per acre, placing it third among graded varieties.
For more information on this or any other agricultural topic, please call the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at (email protected).