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Forage Variety Production Notes: Bermudagrass and Cool-Season Perennial Grass Evaluations

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Bermudagrass Evaluations
Bermudagrass variety evaluation is an important part of the Noble Research Institute Agricultural Divisions forage testing program. This report includes a brief production update for 2003 of two current bermudagrass variety trials on the Ardmore Headquarters Farm (HQF). This season marks the eighth year of production from the "old" variety test, established in May 1996, that includes 11 sprigged varieties and experimental strains. In May 2000, a "new" test was initiated to compare the growth and persistence of 10 seeded varieties and mixtures with that of three benchmark sprigged varieties, "Tifton 44," "Midland 99" and "Ozark."

At the time of this writing on August 29, the two tests have been clipped only two times each (May 30 and July 1) thus far during this growing season (Figures 1 and 2). Dry weather in April delayed the initiation of new spring growth. However, moisture conditions were above normal during much of May and June and allowed for a quick recovery and excellent forage yields in the late spring and early summer. Dry, hot weather in July and August has since limited any re-growth of grass since the July 1 clipping date.

Figure 1 shows the production in dry pounds per acre for each entry in the "old" test through July 1. Assuming favorable moisture and temperatures, we anticipate at least one additional clipping this fall. This season, "Tifton 85" was the most productive in the spring, which is contrary to what we had seen the previous two springs when it was slow to come out of winter dormancy. "Coastal," "Russell" and Midland 99 also produced excellent early forage. "Jiggs" continues to have slow spring recovery and stands seem to be declining with each season of production.

Production for each entry of the "new" test is shown in Figure 2. Two of the sprigged varieties, Midland 99 and Ozark, exhibited the most spring vigor and early forage production in the test, as expected. Giant was the most productive spring forage variety of the seeded types. "Common," "Guymon" and "Wrangler" were very slow to recover from winter dormancy as yields were very low on the May 30 clipping date.

Cool-Season Perennial Grass Evaluations
Last fall, in collaboration with Dr. Andy Hopkins of the Foundations Forage Biotechnology Division, we established a cool-season perennial forage grass trial consisting of 11 grasses on the HQF. The location is an upland site with shallow topsoil that is comparable to much of the agricultural topography in southern Oklahoma. The entries include "Luna" and "Manska" pubescent wheatgrasses, "Jose" tall wheatgrass, "Barton" western wheatgrass, "Hycrest" crested wheatgrass, "Kentucky 31" (E+), "Dovey" (E-) and "Jesup" MaxQ tall fescues, "Paiute" orchardgrass, "Lincoln" smooth bromegrass and "Bozoisky" Russian wildrye. We are interested in observing the adaptation, stand persistence and forage productivity of the various cultivars and/or grass species over a period of years. Fall stands were delayed by cooler than normal conditions in October. Mild temperatures during much of December and early January allowed for some plant growth and development. However, a few hard freezes in late January, February and early March slowed progression and development. Moisture during the late winter and spring was just adequate to support forage growth. This resulted in very low spring forage yields this first year of establishment (Figure 3). The average forage yield for the 11 entries was only 1,375 pounds per acre with yields ranging from 226 pounds for Bozoisky Russian wildrye to 2,652 pounds for Dovey tall fescue. Establishment year yields are generally always low and little or no grazing is recommended to allow seedlings to develop without the additional stress of herbivory. However, it will be interesting to measure fall production of these grasses following the long, hot, dry summer that has occurred.