Publication of the Month: Bermudagrass: A Summer Forage in Kentucky (AGR-48)


bermuda   Climatically, Kentucky lies within a transition zone, where extreme temperatures and variations in rainfall occur. Cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue ,  orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and timothy, are well adapted to this zone. However, forage productivity and quality of these species typically reach seasonal lows in the midsummer months, when cool-season grasses grow more slowly.

Bermudagrass can be used successfully as part of a livestock forage program to supplement summer production of cool-season grasses. It is high-yielding, sod-forming, warm-season perennial grass that is most productive on well-drained, fertile soils. Bermudagrass is widely grown in the southern United States for pasture and hay.

Like other warm-season plants, bermudagrass makes its best growth at 80-90º F. Growth is very slow when temperatures are below 60º F and also tends to decline above 95º F. In most years, bermudagrass growth starts in late April and continues rapidly until mid-September, when it is limited by cooling temperatures. Thus, bermudagrass is very productive during June, July, and August.

Wise use of cool-season perennial grasses and legumes in combination with bermudagrass can help extend the grazing season and reduce the demand on winter feed supplies. However, the potential for winterkill always exists for bermudagrass in Kentucky, so consider only the most winter-hardy varieties. In Kentucky, planting dates should be targeted for early May through mid-June if irrigation is not available. Bermudagrass should also be planted in a well tilled seedbead. Download the full publication here.