Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana)
Rhodes grass is a tufted perennial, usually stoloniferous (varies with genotype), with foliage from 0.5-1.2 m, and fertile tillers from 0.9-2 m tall. It is native to Kenya and many other sub-Saharan Africa countries. Found in open woodland and grassland, riverine and lake margins, and seasonally waterlogged plains, on a wide range of soils. It is excellent for making hay, but can also be grazed in the field. It can grow to 1.5 m high in under good conditions. Rhodes grass is can grow under wide range of rainfall (650 -1200 mm) and can persist under drought.
Rhodes grass is less suitable for the cut-and-carry system. It makes good hay if cut at or just before very early flowering. Generally not suitable for silage. Provides fair stand over roughage when mature, due to its greater cold resistance and lower loss of dry leaves. Develops good ground cover and effectively controls erosion once established (needs regular defoliation to maintain cover. Stands develop quickly and can be grazed 4-6 months after planting, although highest production is reached in the second year. Since feeding value declines rapidly with onset of flowering, it is important to maintain the stand in a leafy condition by fairly regular defoliation.
Rhodes grass establishes well from seed sown at a rate of about 10 kg per hectare. It also establishes well from root splits. It rapidly gives good ground cover under good conditions. Can be propagated vegetatively or from seed. A more rapid cover can generally be obtained by planting from seed, usually at sowing rates of 0.5-1 kg/ha. Seed matures 23-25 days after flowering. Mechanically harvested seed can contain a fair proportion of straw. Hand picking is satisfactory for small areas, and this seed needs minimal cleaning. Seed is locally available (Kenya Seed Company stockists, KALRO, ADC farms).
Yield and nutritive value:
DM yields generally range from about (2- ) 10-25 t/ha, depending on variety, soil fertility, environmental conditions, and cutting frequency. Yields in the second year may be double those of the establishment year, but this also depends on management and environmental conditions. While yields of 35-60 t/ha DM are reported, these are not the norm. Although Chloris gayana can survive on infertile soil, it is very unproductive, and may eventually die out, particularly if grazed regularly. Young growth is very palatable, but after the plants have seeded they are less attractive.
Can carry about 1-4 beasts/ha depending on pasture productivity. Annual liveweight gains of up to 160 kg/head and 850 kg/ha are achievable. Production declines without a vigorous legume or the use of fertiliser nitrogen.
Early nutritive value.
High salt tolerance
Tolerant of heavy grazing.
Few pests or diseases of economic importance.
Some varieties can suppress nematodes (e.g. cv. Katambora).
Good seed production.
Short season of nutritive peak in many cultivars.
Fluffy seed difficult to sow.
Not adapted to acid, infertile soils.
Plants require high fertility to persist.
Low shade tolerance