BERMUDAGRASS FOR FORAGE
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Grazing Tifton85

For much of the South, the hybrid bermudagrasses top the list of forages that may be grown for pasture or hay. Properly managed, they are more dependable, tolerate overgrazing better and produce more grazing and hay per acre at a lower cost than many forages. They contain more dry matter when cut (25 to 30%), cure faster than other forages and do not lose their leaves as legumes frequently do when tedding is required to cure rained-on hay. The hybrid bermudagrasses are more drought tolerant and can produce more grazing and hay in dry periods than other adapted forages. Bermudagrasses do not do well on poorly drained soil. 

 

Establishing and Managing the Tifton Forage Bermudagrasses

Coastal bermudagrass released in 1943, is a hybrid between an introduction from South Africa and a unique bermudagrass found in a South Georgia cotton patch. In numerous tests, it has yielded about twice as much as common bermudagrass. In 1954, with half average rainfall, Coastal stayed green throughout the summer, produced half as much as in a good year and yet yielded six times more than common bermudagrass. It was named "Coastal" for the Experiment Station where it was bred. It has been planted on some 10 million acres across the South.

Coastcross bermudagrass is a hybrid between Coastal and a highly digestible bermudagrass from Kenya. It yields no more dry matter but is 12% more digestible than Coastal and gives 30 to 40% more average daily gains (ADGs) and live weight gains (LWGs) per acre. It has no rhizomes and lacks winterhardiness. It can be dependably grown in Florida and south Texas. Several Alabama and Georgia cattlemen located within 50 miles of the Florida line have grown Coastcross successfully for many years. In Cuba, Holstein cows grazing Coastcross rotationally without concentrate produce 10,000 lbs of milk per lactation.

Tifton 44 bermudagrass is a hybrid between Coastal and a winterhardy common bermudagrass found growing beside a railroad track in Berlin, Germany. It is a little finer stemmed than Coastal and produces more rhizomes. It starts growth earlier in the spring, is more winterhardy and can be successfully grown a hundred miles north of Coastal bermudagrass.

Tifton 78 bermudagrass, a hybrid between Tifton 44 and Callie, is immune to rust, has rhizomes, and is about as winterhardy as Coastal. Compared with Coastal, it is taller, spreads much faster with above ground stolons, establishes easier and quicker, starts earlier in the spring and in a 3-year grazing test produced 36% more LWG/A.

Tifton 85 bermudagrass is a hybrid between PI 290884 from South Africa and Tifton 68, a highly digestible cold susceptible hybrid. It is sterile. It is taller, has larger stems, broader leaves and a darker green color than other bermudagrass hybrids. It has large rhizomes, corms and very large rapidly spreading stolons but very few rhizomes compared with Tifton 44. Compared with Coastal bermudagrass, Tifton 85 was 10% more succulent and produced an average of 26% more dry matter that was 11% more digestible. Tifton 85 survived in a 3-year small-plot test at Athens, GA but temperatures ranging from 7 to 28 degrees December 23 to 27, 1989 reduced the stand and the 1990 yield 17% below the yield of Tifton 44. Tifton 85 produces about 47% more LWG/A than Tifton 78. Steer 6-month ADGs on Tifton 85 were 1.47 lb. Fertilized annually with 225 lb/A of N in a 4-1-2 ratio fertilizer, Tifton 85 grazed continuously from mid-April to mid-October.

Midland bermudagrass (selection 13) is a hybrid between a cold tolerant common bermuda from Indiana and Coastal bermudagrass. It is superior to common bermudagrass in most traits that characterize Coastal. It survived two winters at Lafayette, IN where Coastal winterkilled. At Tifton, where it did not suffer winter injury, selection 13 yielded less than Coastal. The superiority of selection 13 at Stillwater, OK led to its release in Oklahoma as Midland in 1953. It has been widely grown north of the Coastal bermudagrass belt.

Grazer bermudagrass is a hybrid between PI 320876 found in the alps of north Italy and PI 255450 from Kenya. It was bred at Tifton and released as Tifton 72-84. At Tifton it was comparable to Coastal in disease resistance, drought tolerance, and persistence but usually produced 10 to 15% less forage. The forage of 72-84 was up to 12% more digestible than Coastal and steers grazing 72-84 made 13.5% better average daily gains. Gains per acre of the two grasses were similar. The excellent performance of 72-84 in Louisiana led to its release there under the name "Grazer".

CHOOSING AND PLANTING THE BEST HYBRID BERMUDAGRASSES

Frequently we are asked which bermudagrass would we plant? Tifton 85 bermudagrass is the best grass for the Coastal bermudagrass belt. Compared with Tifton 78 in duplicate two-acre pastures fertilized annually with 225 lb/A of N in a 4-1-2 (N-P205-K20) ratio fertilizer split-applied in March, June and August, Tifton 85 produced 47% more LWG/A/yr. Steers were added or removed from the pastures as necessary to keep all grass shorter than 4 inches. (In an earlier 3-year grazing study, Tifton 78 produced 36% more LWG/A than Coastal.) In this 3-year grazing study, steers grazing Tifton 85 continuously from mid-April to mid-October averaged 1.47 pounds per day and produced 1032 lb. LWG/A.

Relative performance of seven bermudas based on research across the South

Our
Choice

Hybrid

Winter
Survival

LWG/A
Grazed

Digestibility

Protein

Rust

Rhizomes

1

2

3

4

5

6

No

Tifton 85

Tifton 78

Tifton 44

Coastal

Callie

Coastcross

Alicia

3.5

3.5

1  

3  

9  

9  

3.5

147%

136%

119%

100%

118%

140%

  80%

1

2

4

6

2

1

9

1

2

3

3

2

1

3

0

0

0

0

9

0

5

Some

Many

V many

Many

Few

None

V many

Ratings: 1 = best, 9 = poorest, 0 = no rust and no seed 

______________________________

Glenn W. Burton and Philip R. Utley

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