Digitaria pentzii Stent

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Graminae

Synonyms

D. eriantha Steud. var. stolonifera Stapf.

Description

A densely-tufted perennial that is strongly stoloniferous, the numerous runners shooting at all the nodes and rooting from some or all of them. Culms up to 120 cm high, simple or branched at the base, straight or bent at the nodes. Lowest leaf-sheaths densely hairy at the base, the lower with long fine hairs, the upper almost glabrous. Leaf-blades glabrous or hairy, up to 30 cm long and 6 mm wide; expanded, but often much less; ligule up to 5 mm long. Three to 14 racemes, up to 18 cm long, arranged digitately or on a central axis up to 3 cm long; spikelets 3-3.5 mm long, fairly conspicuously hairy (Chippendall, 1955).

Distribution

Widely distributed in southern Africa. Introduced in India, Australia and other countries.

Season of growth

Summer.

Altitude range

It occurs at altitudes of 450-1 100 m in Zimbabwe.

Rainfall requirements

In Zimbabwe it occurs with Eragrostis rigidior, Brachiaria nigropedata, Cenchrus ciliaris, Schmidtia bulbosa, Panicum maximum, Urochloa spp. and Heteropogon contortus in the 380-640 mm annual rainfall regime with summer dominance (Barnes, 1972).

Drought tolerance

It can tolerate drought well.

Soil requirements

It occurs on fertile clay in its natural habitat but can adapt to a wide range of soils, including granite sands (Rattray, 1960b).

Sowing methods

It rarely sets seed, and so is propagated by stolons (Bor, 1960).

Response to defoliation

It is very resistant to heavy grazing and possesses exceptional powers of recuperation (Bor, 1960).

Suitability for hay and silage

It makes excellent hay (Bor, 1960).

Frost tolerance

It becomes frosted and brown when exposed to cold but retains its nutritive value.

Ability to compete with weeds

Good, its rapid ground cover quickly suppresses weeds.

Palatability

Not very palatable during the grazing season, but eaten readily in autumn. Maintains palatability and nutritive value into winter.

Response to photoperiod

It flowered in 79-96 days at 14 hours and 138-151 days at 11 hours daylight (Degras, Mathurin & Félicité, 1974).Ð

Natural habitat

In dry-land areas on fertile clay.

Genetics and reproduction

2n=18, 27, 35, 36, 45, 54 (Fedorov, 1974). It is cross pollinated.

Economics

It is a constituent of woodland savannah in Zimbabwe where cattle ranching is practised. Cattle weights increase through June and July and reach their peaks in September. Carrying capacity is about one beast per ten hectares (Rattray, 1960b).

Animal production

Over a period of 12 months, cattle grazing on three strains of Digitaria pentzii produced more live-weight gain on a per- hectare basis than comparable cattle grazing pangola grass (D. decumbens). Cattle grazing on D. pentzii CQ 911 produced twice as much as those on pangola, and continued to gain throughout the colder part of the year (May to September). The gains were positively correlated with the content of sown species, the bulk density of the species and the greenness of the species (Peake, Strickland & Hacker, 1976).

Further reading

Peake, Strickland & Hacker, 1976.

Value for erosion control

It is good for stabilizing soil and improving structure (Göhl, 1975), but has to be established vegetatively.