What is Gamagrass?
Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides (L.)L.) is a native, perennial, warm-season bunchgrass. This tall, robust grass has long been recognized as a highly productive forage grass of the eastern prairie with a photosynthetic rate that is among the highest reported in scientific literature for any species.
Naturally occurring stands have been found throughout most of the eastern half of the United States and west on favorable sites to Colorado. It can also be productive in arid regions with the aid of irrigation. To date limited research has been done on gamagrass winter hardiness in the far Northern Plains States. Your local Conservation Service or University Extension office may have additional information on adaptability in your area.
Another unique characteristic of gamagrass is its ability to green up earlier in the spring and exhibit faster first year seedling growth than other common warm-season bunchgrasses.
Eastern gamagrass is nutritious and readily eaten by all classes of livestock. High potential forage yields and palatability combine to make it a superior grass for haying or grazing. Overgrazing has largely eliminated native stands of gamagrass from pasture land because it is favored over other grasses by grazing animals. Testing done at USDA-ARS Southern Great Plains Range Research Station, Woodward, OK, revealed the following results: In stands with adequate water and fertilizer, yields from three cutting (45 days apart--June 1, July 15, and September 1) commonly ranged from 7 to 8 tons per acre of 11% to 15% protein forage containing 65% TDN on an oven dry basis.
Do you want to solve your pasture productivity problems? Gamagrass may be the solution you've been looking for. Its adaptability to a wide range of climates and soils (upland to bottom, sandy to clayey) earns it a place in your operation. The tremendous regrowth potential of gamagrass and consistently high forage quality provide the key to unlock your maximum pasture profits $$$.
What about CRP acres? When released at the end of the 10-year contract period, or if opened to haying/grazing due to drought, season-long acceptance by livestock makes it an excellent grass choice. This is especially true for wetland CRP acres where choices of grasses with good palatability and water tolerance are very limited. Wildlife can utilize the plants and seed for food. The plants provide good ground nesting cover for pheasant and quail. It can also be utilized in filterstrips, field borders, contour buffer strips, cross wind trap strips, and riparian forest buffers for nitrogen and phosphorus uptake, and erosion control. You may wish to investigate other government programs which offer cost sharing on the establishment of eastern gamagrass.
The seed can be planted with a row crop planter or conventional drill. The seed is about the size, shape, and color of milo seed, but encased in a hard cylinder shaped capsule, green to tan in color and about the size of small seed corn.
Careful handling and preparation of seed and attention to details at planting are important for successful stand establishment. Native grasses generally require several years to establish. Possibly because gamagrass is a relative of corn, it exhibits some similar characteristics. Gamagrass responds to higher levels of fertilizer than most other native grasses. It also has the capacity to emerge from soil depths comparable to corn. To maintain a productive stand it is critical not to hay or graze plants below 6 to 8 inches because a large portion of plant reserves are stored in the plant base.
Considering its high palatability, it is often easier to manage as a pure stand under a rotational grazing system or as a hay meadow.