Warm-Season Grass Leaps in First Year

There's an old saying about warm-season grass: "First year it sleeps. Second year it creeps. Third year it leaps."

University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Zac Erwin says warm-season grass seeding in Novelty, Mo., went straight to "leap" in 2018 despite weather challenges.

"It was a year when nothing seemed to be going right," Erwin says. "We planted on the last acceptable seeding date in June. They faced drought before seedlings caught some timely showers."

Erwin works with Novelty farmer Bill Wilkerson to improve forage growth for his cattle and grain operation. Erwin tested soil pH and fertility before Wilkerson seeded the demonstration plot with a mix of Rountree and OZ-70 Germplasm big bluestem varieties and Rumsey Indian grass.

Wilkerson says his warm-season grass surpassed all expectations.

The plot needed early care after seeding. Wilkerson sprayed cropland previously seeded in cereal rye cover crop to prepare for seeding. He monitored it carefully and sprayed a couple of times to control early weed pressure. Waterhemp was the biggest challenge.

They drilled seed and caught a timely rain within a few days. Wilkerson then sprayed the newly established grass two times to control weeds and give seedlings a chance to germinate and grow.

"That attention to detail really paid off as he saw tremendous seedling germination and subsequent first-year growth," Erwin says. "This is the first time I've seen warm-season grass so prolific. It even went to seed heavily in the first year."

Wilkerson is a longtime participant in MU Extension's Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program.

The NRCS + MU Grasslands Project funded the demonstration plot. Project coordinators are Erwin, Ryan Lock, Will Knuckles and Dan England.

The project will showcase the plot to area producers in 2019. Learn more at extension2.missouri.edu/programs/nrcs-mu-grasslands-project.