Cool- and Warm-Season Grasses Make for Better Pastures

This is part 3 in the three part series to help you better understand your forage and your pastures. Here are links to the first two parts in the series: Grass Growth and Response to Grazing; How Your Grass Grows Tells You How to Graze It. Some grass species grow during cooler times of the year (various wheatgrass, needlegrass, bromegrass, bluegrass, orchard grass, fescue). These grasses are commonly called cool-season or C3 species and grow when temperatures are 40 to 75 degrees F. These grasses begin growth in early spring as soon as the soil is above freezing and daytime temperatures are conducive to growth. These cool-season grasses produce high-quality forage early in the growing season. However, they do not grow during the hot periods in midsummer, and often become semi-dormant. They may grow again in the fall as temperatures cool and late summer precipitation replenishes soil moisture. Thus, there may be two growing periods for these grasses: early spring and late summer or fall. Warm-season or C4 species (blue grama, buffalograss, blue stems, maize, sudangrass, pearl millet, Indiangrass, bermudagrass and switchgrass) grow during warmer periods when temperatures are 70 to 95 degrees F. Warm-season grasses use soil moisture more efficiently than cool-s

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