Cool Season Grasses

Cultivated grass species are divided into two large groups: the cool season grasses and the warm-season or tropical grasses. On the west coast of the United States and in Canada, introduced northern grasses are cultivated, except on the west coast of California, where winter annual species are grown. A line drawn from east to west, and passing through North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, separates the areas in which cool- and warm-season perennial grasses are cultivated.

The cool-season grasses produce surplus production in May and June, are less productive during the mid-summer period, and become more productive again in the fall with the advent of cooler weather and fall moisture. Warm-season grasses can be an attractive compliment to these cool-season species by providing forage when the cool-season grasses are less productive. Having part of the grazing area in warm-season perennial grasses would enable the accumulation (stockpiling) of cool-season forage growth from July through September for grazing later in the fall, thus extending the total grazing season. Utilizing both cool- and warm-season species should provide more uniform season-long forage production.

Cool season grasses develop most rapidly during spring and early summer when cool nights follow warm days. They begin to grow again in late summer and early fall when these same conditions apply. Growing best in temperatures of 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, cool season grasses go dormant when temperatures reach 90 to 95. These grasses include timothy, orchard grass, and brome grass--all introduced species--and native Canada wildrye, redtop, and June grass, which is also called blue grass. Legumes such as alfalfa and the clovers--ladino, sweet, white, red, and others--are often included in plantings of cool season grasses.

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