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Mississippi Forages

Prairie Bromegrass (Bromus willdenowii)

Plant Characteristics: Prairie grass is a cool-season perennial that is adapted to temperate climate areas with mild winters. It is also known as Prairie grass, rescuegrass. Prairie grass resembles orchardgrass except that basal leaf sheaths of Matua are densely covered with fine hairs and the ligule is shorter. Leaves are light green to green rolled in the bud and the leaf collar is broad and divided. Matua has no auricles, the ligule is long, membranous, and fringed. The inflorescence is an open, drooping panicle. Seed heads are produced throughout the growing season unlike most cool-season grasses. Fibrous root system with no rhizomes.

Establishment: It is not competitive, so it should not be planted as part of a cool-season type grass mix. Prairie grass is compatible with alfalfa in a grass/legume mixture. Plant alone as the only cool-season grass. It is best adapted to fertile soils with medium or coarse texture and while it tolerates heat and drought, it does not tolerate flooding or poor drainage. Seed must not be planted too deeply. Prairie grass may be seeded between August 15 and September 20. For drilled plantings in a well-prepared seed bed, seeding rates of 25 lbs/ac are recommended and 30-40 lbs/ac for broadcast seeding. Under poor seedbed preparation, seeding rates should are increased by 50%. The seed should be planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Susceptible to mildew disease and head smut and some cultivars must be treated with a fungicide to control head smut.

Fertilization: Optimal pH is between 6 and 7. Soil levels of phosphorous and potassium should be determined with a soil test. In the absence of a soil test, plow down 0-45-135 lb/ac and apply 20-20-20 lb/ac at seeding. Matua responds well to nitrogen fertilizer and the performance of Matua is directly proportional to the amount of nitrogen available. A pre-plant nitrogen application of 40 lb N/ac is recommended. Prairie grass requires a high level of nitrogen (N) fertility. Once established, early nitrogen application of 30 to 40 lbs N/ac in the spring will crease forage production. A similar application in the fall will extend the grazing season. During forage production, apply 50 to 60 lbs N/ac following each hay harvest or 30-40 lbs N/ac following each grazing. Phosphorous and potassium recommendations are similar to those for alfalfa. Prairie grass is perfect for dairies, hog and chicken farms and sewage treatment plants with excess nitrogen to burn.

Grazing/Hay Management: Prairie grass could be utilized for hay or pasture. Prairie grass offers the opportunity for earlier spring grazing, and fall growth can extend the grazing season by as much as two months longer than that of traditional cool-season grass species. It produces annual yields of 3 to 4 tons/ac with forage production from March to May and September to November. Prairie grass is a jointed grass, more sensitive to grazing management and may be damaged by improper harvest management. Matua requires either machine harvest or fast-rotation grazing management. Grazing or cutting prairie grass after the growing point has been elevated above grazing or cutting height and before the crop has entered the boot stage will dramatically reduce subsequent re-growth, and may reduce quality, yield, stand life. Prairie grass will tolerate close grazing provided it is in the boot stage at the beginning of grazing and the grazing period does not exceed 4 days. A rest period of 25 to 45 days should be observed between harvests depending on weather conditions. In established prairie grass stands, delaying the first spring harvest reduces the recovery rate and lowers the yield potential of the next cutting. It is good insurance to let one crop go to seed each year in late fall. Dropped seed at this time will germinate next spring thus restoring the stand in event of winter kill decline.

Forage Quality: Forage quality is excellent in the vegetative stage, forage quality is good in later stages of maturity when typically harvested for hay or silage. No unique antiquality factors had been found. Crude protein ranges from 10 to 15%, NDF 60 to 70%, ADF 35 to 40%. Low levels of forage magnesium and iodine have been reported.

Varieties/Cultivars: Matua, Grasslands Dixon and Grasslands Lakota.