Heart of America Conference Highlight: Native Warm-Season Grasses (NWSG): Naturally Adapted Productive Pastures

The series of severe droughts between 2007-2012 resulted in decreases in cattle numbers in the southeast. Some of the impact of these droughts may have been offset if producers had reliable, drought-resilient summer forages. Beginning in 2008, a group of researchers at the Univ. of TN started a series of studies designed to evaluate the potential of Native Warm Season Grasses (NWSG) to compliment to tall fescue.             

One lesson learned from this study was that these grasses had higher carrying capacities than anticipated. Based on 60 units of nitrogen (N) per acre applied each spring (late April), carrying capacity was over 1,000 pounds of live animal per acre, season long (Figure 1). Switchgrass was especially productive reaching a peak in late May – early June of 2,500 lb/acre. This stocking translates into 145 animal unit days (AUD) per acre for BB/IG, 198 for SG, and 206 for EG.

From: Native Warm-Season Grasses (NWSG): Naturally Adapted Productive Pastures (HOA Grazing Conference 2016)

Stocking rate (lb/acre) for switchgrass and big bluestem/indiangrass blend

Based on research to date, it appears that NWSG can provide a valuable, high quality source of summer forage that can effectively complement tall fescue production systems.

~ Dr. Pat Keyser See full article and all Heart of America Proceedings at  www.uky.edu/ag/forage.