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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses palatable for horses and eliminating KR bluestem.

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Friday - January 11, 2008

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses palatable for horses and eliminating KR bluestem.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Looking for native Texas grasses which are palatable for horses, to overseed in areas which are currently overrun with KR bluestem. What are the best grasses and best way to accomplish this? (SW Gillespie Co.) Thanks!

ANSWER:

First, let's address the problem of getting rid of King Ranch (KR) bluestem. We've had several inquiries recently and, in fact, the 2007 Texas Invasive Plant Conference had an entire day devoted to a symposium addressing just this question. Please see the answer to a recent question about eliminating KR bluestem for a thorough discussion of the problem.

Here are several native grasses that make good forage for horses and cattle:

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

You can read an analysis of most of the species above in Forages of Texas - North Central by Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Stephenville.

Several sources (e.g., Safergrass.org) emphasize the nutritional benefits of using native grasses over introduced grasses. You do need to realize, however, that native grass pastures are more difficult to establish than pastures of the introduced forage grasses. Native grasses face competition from introduced nonnative grasses and need to be managed carefully to prevent overgrazing. Native Prairies Association of Texas, Kansas State University and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation have information on planting and establishing native grasses.

Native American Seed in Junction is an excellent source for native grass seeds. They also have information on planting native grasses. You can also look for other seed companies and nurseries in your area that specialize in native plants in our National Suppliers Directory.

A cautionary note—although most native grasses are desirable to feed your horses, there are some grasses and other plants, both native and non-native, that you should avoid for your pasture. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has compiled a list of Poisonous Plant Considerations.

 

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