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Switchgrass may offer potential for native grass in pastures
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The unrealized promise of a biomass industry aside, switchgrass
offers many advantages for land owners thinking about adding a native grass to their
pastures, said Dirk Philipp, forage researcher and associate professor of animal science
for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Switchgrass is adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions, Philipp said.
Once established, it persists very well and out-competes other grasses and broadleaf
“Switchgrass is considered the ‘super native warm-season grass’ based on its morphology,
vigorous growth, high biomass yield, and frugality with soil nutrients,” Philipp said.
It tolerates wet areas, Philipp said, and it doesn’t take up a lot of nitrogen. That
means nitrogen fertilizer rates can be kept low.
Philipp said switchgrass can be used in a wide range of settings. It can supplement
grazing during late spring and early summer. It is well suited for planting along
property lines and in marginal areas of the farm where other forages are difficult
to establish. It’s also a good choice for use along intermittent streams.
Switchgrass also has several environmental advantages, Philipp said.
It creates an understory that is open enough to permit travel by wildlife, including
birds and mammals, Philipp said. Crown development in plantings over the years leave
those travel corridors open permanently.
Philipp said it also makes nice nesting areas for ground-nesting birds.
Landowners who consider adding switchgrass to their properties should check with their
county Extension Office before beginning. “This is a good idea for several reasons,”
The Cooperative Extension Service can help develop a plan for where and when switchgrass
should be planted, Philipp said. He added that it’s important to make sure it fits
longterm farm business plans and to investigate cost-sharing and other external funding
and support sources.
“Landowners should understand that switchgrass establishment is a longterm commitment
and that it’s time-intensive,” Philipp said.
Soil must be prepared 12 months in advances to ensure thorough weed control, Philipp
said. And final establishment will take two years.
“But once established,” Philipp said, “switchgrass plantings will serve their purpose
for decades to come,”
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Fred MillerArkansas Agricultural Experiment StationU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Fred MillerCommunication ServicesU of A Division of Agriculture(479) email@example.com