May 2, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Bermudagrass may offer farmers a good grass supply for pasture and hay during the hot summer months when other grasses become dormant.

"The main reason farmers would be interested in Bermudagrass or any other warm season grass is that it is more productive throughout the hotter months of the year, particularly July and August, if you have adequate moisture," said Monroe Rasnake, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agronomist.

Tall fescue, the staple in Kentucky hay and pasture fields, is generally dormant during the hotter months.

Bermudagrass makes good hay if it is cut in a timely manner and not allowed to become overly mature.

Something like Bermudagrass is filling a niche, he said.

Bermudagrass, a warm-season grass native to Africa, is widely grown in the southeastern United States.

The nutritional value of the grass from a grazing standpoint is as good as most of the grasses grown in Kentucky. In some fields legumes are added to increase nutritional levels but not in Bermudagrass. In order to get high production it needs a high level of fertility and more nitrogen than what legumes would provide.

Because it requires a high level of nutrition, it is a good place to utilize animal waste especially poultry litter, Rasnake said. It needs the nutrition in the summertime, while applications for other crops are done in late September or early April.<> "It's a place that can use quite a bit of litter," he said. "Some farmers are looking at this grass specifically because of that.",

While the overall acreage of Bermudagrass in the state is small, interest has been increasing in recent years especially in western and southern Kentucky, Rasnake said.

Winter hardiness is the chief concern with the grass. Kentucky is on the northern edge of its productive area. Nine cultivars have been planted and checked since 1998 for winter survivability at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton. The results of four years' data indicate that Tifton 44, Quickstand and two experimental varieties that have now been released as Midland 99 and Ozarka have good yield potential and survivability.

The cost of establishing Bermudagrass is higher than other grasses but similar to alfalfa, Rasnake said. May is the ideal time to try to get the crop established. The crop is sprigged with 20 to 30 bushels of sprigs per acre and will provide a good crop sometimes as quickly as that same year or, more likely, the next year. Once it is established it should be productive indefinitely.

"Farmers need to understand that it does take intensive management and good utilization," he said. "It is something that should be planted on some of the better land, and there must be a commitment to managing it properly."


Monroe Rasnake, (270) 365-7541