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Reed Canarygrass, Maybe Eastern Gamagrass

The Question

A farmer has roughly eight acres of ground that is a channel that a river backs into during flooding season.  He has successfully used reed canarygrass as a filter strip along the river, but is concerned about forage quality if he were to cut it for hay. 

What forage mix would you recommend for this situation?  The farmer currently has approval for CRP on this ground, but is considering voiding the contract and producing hay for his beef cattle. 

My Response

Has the gentleman used improved reed canarygrass varieties that are low alkaloid?  I have had 'Palaton' and 'Venture' varieties in plots and have recommended them to others without a complaint.  If the soil is not suited to red clover or a hay-type birdsfoot trefoil, then the best choice of a legume in combination with the reed canarygrass would be alsike clover.  For your information, light-skinned horses, in particular, can develop a photosensitization if fed a diet high in alsike clover. In a matter of several years, a mixed stand will probably evolve to be pure reed canarygrass.  Consult AY-60 for specifics on production of reed canarygrass.

Another consideration for this purpose might be Eastern gamagrass.  It is a native, perennial warm-season grass thought to be an evolutionary relative of modern-day corn.  Seed price is high as compared to typical cost of grass seed.  Eastern gamagrass seed needs to be soaked and chilled before seeding occurs for best results.  The only seed resources that I am aware of are located in Missouri and Nebraska. 

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Keith Johnson
Professor of Agronomy and Forage Crops Specialist
1150 Lilly Hall of Life Sciences
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
phone: 765-494-4800
fax: 765-496-2926
e-mail:johnsonk@purdue.edu

 

 

For more forage information contact Dr. Keith Johnson: johnsonk@purdue.edu

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