Paspalum notatum Flgge

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Graminae

Common names

Bahia grass (United States), jengi brillo (Costa Rica), batatais (Brazil), Paraguay paspalum (Zimbabwe), tejona (Cuba).

Description

A low-growing perennial spreading by short, stout, woody runners and by seed. The runners have many large, fibrous roots which form dense, tough sods, even on drought-prone sandy soils. The leaf-blades are generally hairy on the margins and less than 1 cm wide. It seeds prolifically during the summer, the seed stalks 30-75 cm high, usually with two (sometimes three) racemes, each about 6 cm long. Seeds oval, yellowish-green, glossy and 3 mm in diameter (Wheeler, 1950).

Distribution

It originated in South America and is widespread in the southern United States, Central and South America. Introduced into Africa and Australia.

Season of growth

Spring, summer and autumn.

Altitude range

Sea-level to 2 000 m (Anderson, 1969).

Rainfall requirements

It needs a moderate to high subtropical rainfall, with a minimum of about 750 mm per year. Mean 1 500 mm + 586 (Russell & Webb, 1976).

Drought tolerance

Because of its deep root system it has good drought tolerance.

Soil requirements

It can adapt to a wide range of soils, but is best suited to sandy soils.

Ability to spread naturally

It spreads rapidly by short stolons and seeds.

Land preparation for establishment

A fully cultivated fine seed-bed is required.

Sowing methods

The seed is drilled into a fine seed-bed and rolled. Seed is also spread readily in animal dung and will germinate therefrom. Sods may also be laid.

Sowing depth and cover

Not deeper than 1 cm, rolled to cover.

Sowing time and rate

Drill seed in the spring, at 2-5 kg/ha.

Number of seeds per kg.

550 000 (Queensland), 330 000 (United States).

Seed treatment before planting

Hammer milling improves seed handling and germination; moistening with KNO3 solution at 25-35C also helps germination.

Tolerance to herbicides

No records have been found.

Seedling vigour

It is not vigorous and can be subject to weed competition, hence the need for a fine, clean seed-bed.

Vigour of growth and growth rhythm

After a slow start it grows rapidly when established and fertilized. It produces little feed during the winter.

Response to defoliation

Most of the forage of Bahia grass sods lies near the soil surface so it should be grazed closely and frequently to obtain the best quality material. Six-week cutting intervals were better than 2-, 3- or 4-week intervals (Beaty, Stanley & Powell, 1968).

Grazing management

Once established, Bahia grass can be grazed heavily to near soil level. It should be fertilized at up to 224 kg N/ha per year. Frequent defoliation over 24 months had little effect on the sward (Beaty, Brown & Morris, 1970). Cutting at six-week intervals gave the best yield and nutritive value in Brazil (Prates, 1977). In the early establishment period, mow the grass every three to four weeks to suppress weeds. Top-dress with nitrogen at 35 kg/ha during the first year, then increase as necessary. In Georgia, United States, 550 kg/ha of a 5:10:15 NPK mixture plus 110 kg N/ha is usually applied annually.

Response to fire

Winter burning is sometimes practiced in the United States to get rid of dead litter. If the litter cover is light little harm is done, but if litter is abundant, such as after a seed harvest, damage can result (Stephens & Marchant, 1960).

Dry-matter and green-matter yields

In Georgia, United States, yields of air-dried material varied from 5 947-7 240 kg/ha over a four-year period with five different cultivars (Stephens & Marchant, 1960). At Howard south-eastern Queensland, under a 1 075 mm summer-dominant rainfall, fully fertilized, it yielded a three-year mean of 6 859 kg DM/ha with CPI 9073 introduction (Evans, 1967a).

Suitability for hay and silage

It proved unsuitable for silage in Panama (Medling, 1972). It is not a very suitable hay plant because of its low yield, and it is hard to mow. If well fertilized and vigorous it can make useful hay.

Value as a standover or deferred feed

It is not very useful because of its coarseness.

Toxicity

No major toxicity has been reported. In some strains which are susceptible to paspalum ergot there may be slight toxicity.

Seed yield

110-350 kg/ha. 112 kg N/ha early in the season will improve seed yields (Stephens & Marchant, 1960).

Cultivars

  • 'Common Bahia Grass'

described above.

  • 'Paraguay'

Introduced to the United States from Paraguay. The leafblades are hairier and narrower than 'Common Bahia'. It seeds heavily and the seed is of good quality. It is very winter-hardy, but is too tough for grazing from midsummer to autumn. It is palatable in spring and summer. It is a lawn grass.

  • 'Pensacola'

narrow-leaved like 'Paraguay', but less hairy. The seeds are smaller than those of either 'Common' or 'Paraguay', and more seeds are produced per head. It seeds heavily, but the seed shatters badly. The seed germinates well and the grass establishes a sod quickly. It is fairly frost tolerant and growth starts early in the spring. It is fairly resistant to ergot.

  • 'Argentine'

a medium broad-leaf type which makes a rapid and abundant growth and is more frost resistant than cv. Common and cv. Paraguay. It does not make early spring growth, but grows well in later summer and autumn.

  • 'Wallace' and 'Tampa'

not used much. Cultivar Wallace gives low production and cv. Tampa is easily killed by frost.

  • 'Tifhi-1'

hybrid which has outyielded cv. Pensacola at Tifton, Georgia, United States.

  • 'Paraguay'

the main cultivar used at the Henderson Research Station, Zimbabwe, but several accessions promise to offer alternatives (Mills & Boultwood, 1978).

  • There is also a var. saurae Parodi.

Diseases

Argentine Bahia grass is attacked by paspalum ergot (Claviceps paspali). Helminthosporium micropus sometimes causes damage.

Main attributes

Bahia grass is a deep-rooted perennial which stands heavy grazing and forms a dense turf.

Main deficiencies

It is relatively unpalatable to cattle (but the least palatable cultivars give the best live-weight gains), it suffers in periods of drought and does not produce a large volume of herbage (Harker, 1962). As a lawn grass it is often difficult to mow.

Optimum temperature for growth

25-30C. Mean 20.2C + 3.2 (Russell & Webb, 1976). 

Minimum temperature for growth

Mean temperature of the coldest month 7.8C + 5.3 (Russell & Webb, 1976).I

Frost tolerance

Good; 90 percent survival from the first winter in Queensland on the Darling Downs (Jones, 1969). It was eliminated by a temperature of -12C in North Carolina, United States.

Latitudinal limits

About 25N and 30S (Russell & Webb, 1976).

Response to light

It does not grow well in shade.

Ability to compete with weeds

It can become weed infested early in its growth but when established it forms a dense sod, making it a useful lawn grass (Chippendall & Crook, 1976). It can itself become a weed.

Maximum germination and quality required for sale

60 percent germinable seed, 60 percent purity in Queensland.

Pests

Cultivar Paraguay 22 is resistant to the sting nematode (Belonolaimus longicaudatus) which affects cv. Pensacola and Hemarthria altissima (Boyd & Perry, 1972).

Palatability

It is reasonably palatable in spring and summer, but is too coarse from midsummer to autumn (Burton, 1945). In the West Indies, Motta (1956) reported that it lacked palatability in trials held between 1948 and 1954. It is not as palatable as Cynodon aethiopicus.

Response to photoperiod

It is a long-day plant (Evans, Wardlaw & Williams, 1964).

Chemical analysis and digestibility

In Costa Rica, analyses of material at floral initiation revealed 6.75 percent crude protein, 28.25 percent crude fibre, 43.32 percent nitrogen-free extract, 1.29 percent ether extract and 10.39 percent ash in the dry matter on a 10 percent moisture basis (Gonzalez & Pacheco, 1970). In Laos, Chavancy (1951) recorded 13 percent crude protein and 34.5 percent crude fibre in the dry matter of fresh material in late bloom.

Tolerance to flooding

It is fairly tolerant of flooding. In New South Wales, Australia, it was submerged for 25 days, but it was non-productive during this time (Colman & Wilson, 1960).

Fertilizer requirements

On Leon fine sand in Florida it responds well up to 224 kg N/ha per year (Beaty, Powell & Etheredge, 1963; Blue, 1970). On these poor sandy soils it fails to grow without 10-12 kg/ha of copper (as copper oxide or sulphate) because of soil deficiency (Hodges, Jones & Kirk, 1958). One or two early applications of 25-30 kg N/ha will hasten development. CSIRO workers in Queensland (Weier, 1976) have shown it has an active nitrogenase system and, over a growing season of 12 weeks, P. notatum fixed nitrogen at the rate of 4 kg N/ha per day. Schegel (1978) associates this with Azotobacter paspali. Recovery rate of added fertilizer nitrogen increased yearly to the sixth year when it reached about 60 percent at 112 kg/ha and 70 percent at an application rate of 224 kg/ha (Blue, 1970).0

Compatibility with other grasses and legumes

In the transition zone between temperate and subtropical species, Bahia grass tends to invade temperate species (Hoveland, Hasland & Rodriguez-Kabana, 1977). White clover and crimson clover can grow with it, if well fertilized. In Zimbabwe, Clatworthy (1970) grew it successfully in combination with Trifolium semipilosum and Lotononis bainesii.

Genetics and reproduction

2n=20 (sexual), 2=40 (apomictic) (Bashaw, Hovin & Holt, 1970).

Seed production and harvesting

Bahia grass ripens progressively over the summer in the United States and at no time is all the seed mature. Thus, a series of harvests with a beater or stripper gives the highest yields. Combine harvesting can be carried out, but yields are reduced. Seed should be dried thoroughly immediately after harvest.

Economics

Bahia grass has resistance to internal root nematodes (root-knot and meadow nematodes) which are serious pests of tomatoes. In the United States, Bahia grass is often used as a ley in a four-year rotation to reduce the damage to tomatoes (Stephens & Marchant, 1960). The grass is easily ploughed out.

Animal production

In Georgia, cv. Argentine produced 405 kg beef per hectare, cv. Pensacola 439 kg/ha and 'Tifhi-1' 514 kg/ha per year (Johnson & Gurley, 1960). Stocking rates over a four-year period with five cultivars averaged about five beasts per hectare (Stephens & Marchant, 1960).

Further reading

Burton, 1945; Stephens & Marchant, 1960.

Dormancy

Germination is usually slow. It improves with up to three years' storage and then declines. Dormancy can be broken by treatment with sulphuric acid (Burton, 1945) and by hammer milling.

Value for erosion control

Bahia grass is often used to stabilize terraces against erosion.

Tolerance to salinity

No record has been found.