Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides)

Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides)

Eastern Gamagrass

Eastern Gamagrass

Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a warm season, native, perennial, sod forming grass and is a relative to corn. Native to the Eastern half of the United States, it does best in moderately well drained to poorly drained soils. Lowlands, sub-irrigated, or irrigated sites that are not alkaline will also support this species well. Extended periods of flooding are also tolerated. Eastern gamagrass is primarily used for hay and haylage. Compared to other native perennial warm season grasses it is more palatable, nutritious and productive. Where intensive rotational grazing is well managed Eastern gamagrass can be used as an alternative to annual silage crops, or as pasture forage. The seed is produced from June to September and can reach up to 8 feet tall. The seed heads are 6-10 inches in length and are made up of one to several spikes. The leaves have a well-defined midrib and, can be 3/8-3/4 inches wide and 12-24 inches in length. Eastern gamagrass does best in moderately well drained to somewhat poorly drained soils. Selecting area before planting must be made carefully. If the area has good weed control history, Eastern gamagrass can be seeded with conventional equipment into a thoroughly prepared seedbed. To avoid exposing weed seeds to good germination conditions areas formerly in cool season pastures or hay land should be sown without tillage. Before spring sowing, seeds must first be stratified (exposed to cold, wet conditions) for 8 weeks. Eastern Eastern gamagrass can be purchased stratified through commercial growers. Stratify seed artificially by placing the seeds in a burlap bag until the bag is about 1/2 full. Soak bag in a 1% solution of fungicide for 10 to 12 hours. Then drain the seeds and seal them, along with the sack, in a plastic bag.  Store them this way for 8 weeks at 35-45 °F.  Stratification may also be achieved by planting in the fall after November 1, but before frost is in the soil. Prepare the planting site as you would for corn.This needs to  be done when soil is at least 55 degrees; early corn planting season is preferred. For Eastern gamagrass planted with corn, plant corn first and sow the Eastern gamagrass between the corn rows. Eastern gamagrass is prone to frost heaving over the first winter after planting on some soils in the Northeast. To make this possibility less likely plant on moderately well drained or well drained soils. To produce the largest possible plants by the end of the first season on soils with somewhat poor drainage, use all strategies available. Plants with 15 to 20 culms seem to be very resistant to frost heaving, while those with less than 10 culms are vulnerable. Cultivation works the best to control weeds in pure stands of Eastern gamagrass, when care is taken not to bury the seedlings. Cultivation should not be used if grass planted with corn. Good pre-emergent weed control should have been taken in this case. A controlled burn in the early spring when grass is about 1” tall will control perennial cool-season grasses in established stands, woody competition and some diseases. When cutting Eastern gamagrass hay, make sure not to cut lower than 6-8 inches. Three cuttings can be done: The first is about June 10-15 prior to heading; the second cutting about July 30; and the third cutting should be done no later than September 5. On lower production sites and more northern states a two cut system may be appropriate. Boot stage should be the first cutting. The second cutting should occur 4-8 weeks later depending on production, but no later than September 5th. This will allow adequate growth to occur before frost. If you intend to graze Eastern gamagrass, ensure that your forage management system be used that provides recovery periods for the grass and doesn’t allow grazing below 8 inch stubble height. [table “” not found /]

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