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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Blue Grama for Low Maintenance Roadside Use
Year: 2005
Author(s): Smith, S. R., Ervin, E., Doak, S., Voigt, T., Qian, Y., Phan, A.
Source Title: Proceedings of the 4th Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 219
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Blue grama is a short-statured, warm-season native grass. It is the dominant species over much of the short grass prairie region of North America from Canada to Mexico and tolerates a range of soil types and environmental conditions. Recent research in Canada and Virginia showed that it has potential as a low-maintenance grass for turf and roadside use. The objective of this research was to evaluate six blue grama seed sources for roadside use across a range of locations in North America. Locations included Blacksburg, Culpeper, Roanoke, and Petersburg, Virginia; Fort Collins, Colorado; Urbana, Illinois; and Rapid City, Manitoba, Canada. The experiments were established on native, unfertilized soils in a RCBD design at 20 lb PLS/acre in 6 x 10 ft plots. The original source of the following entries spanned over 1,000 miles south to north: Hachita, New Mexico; Alamo, Texas; Kansas Common, Kansas; Birdseye, Wyoming; Bad River, South Dakota; and DUC Ecovar, Manitoba, Canada. Plots were clipped once a year in late winter/early spring to stimulate the initiation of new growth. Measurements included germination, percent ground cover, winter survival, spring green-up, and point-quadrat cover. Percent ground cover provided a good measure of survival, stand vigor, and general adaptation under low-maintenance roadside conditions. All entries showed rapid germination across locations and good seedling vigor in comparison to other native grass species. Although there was environmental variation, Hachita and Alamo showed a consistent positive establishment response across locations. These two entries ranged from 20 to 30 inches in height at the seedhead stage, approximately twice the height of the other entries. In Illinois and Manitoba, all entries showed good establishment, likely reflecting the rich soils and adequate rainfall at these locations. Hachita and Alamo were the most consistent in maintaining percent cover across locations, with the exception of severe winterkill in Manitoba. Interestingly, even though these two entries were from the arid Southwest, they were well adapted to the harsh soil conditions (low pH, low fertility) and high humidity of Virginia. The northern origin seed sources generally performed well in Manitoba, Colorado, and Illinois but not in Virginia with several exceptions. Bad River showed the best performance of the northern short-statured entries across locations. Kansas Common was the weakest entry across all locations. In conclusion, blue grama should be considered when a low-maintenance native grass is desired for roadside use. Ideally, the seed source should be obtained from the region in which you are planting unless test results show a wider adaptation. Hachita had the most consistent response and appears to show good adaptation, but winterkill is likely under extreme winter temperatures.
Publisher: The University of Kentucky Department of Forestry, Lexington, Kentucky
Editor(s): T. G. Barnes