Tag Archive: grass

Evaluate Forage Production While the Grass is Still Growing

Evaluate Forage Production While the Grass is Still Growing

Washington County cow in mid-September with plenty of forage waiting on her just beyond the temporary fence.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

There has been a delightful coolness in the air these first few “post Irma” days. Don’t be fooled, it’s not fall yet. Mid-September, in Florida, is definitely still summer and pasture grass should not be in short supply in the summer. This is a good time of year to evaluate your operation’s forage production ability.

Granted we may be a little past our peak forage production, but we are still quite a way from the “fall forage gap” – that rough period when our summer grasses are done and our cool season annuals have yet to really get started. In other words, there should be plenty of forage available right now. If that is not the case on your operation, your “fall forage gap” is going to be much longer than it should be.

There are many factors that can, collectively or independently, result in less than impressive forage production. The purpose of the following comments are to help you identify the factor(s) that might be holding back your forage production. Sitting here at my desk, I won’t presume to tell you you’ve done something wrong with your pastures. I am keenly aware of the old adage: If it don’t rain, it don’t matter. That said, if drought is not the issue at hand, consider that one or more of the following issues may be causing your less than optimum forage production. Each of the issues mentioned below would warrant their own article for a full explanation; the purpose here is simply to introduce the topics and encourage you to honestly evaluate your current situation.

  • Weeds – The presence of weeds reduce your pasture’s ability to produce forage. Weeds are undesirable plants that are not readily utilized by livestock, and in some cases are toxic. If these undesirable plants become established in your pasture they can displace desirable forage species, essentially decreasing your acres of grazable forage. We commonly only think of weeds as broadleaf species like Tropical Soda Apple, but some of the most problematic weeds we encounter in Florida are weedy grasses, like smutgrass. Broadleaf or grass, anything that is taking up stealing water and nutrients in your pasture, that your livestock do not utilize is lessening your overall ability to produce forage, and placing added pressure on the remaining desirable forage. Take steps to identify weeds and begin a control program. Weed Management in Pastures and Rangelands will be a valuable tool in this effort. 
  • The Wrong Grass – Unfortunately, I have received more than one call about “bahiagrass” that won’t grow. More often than not, especially in the northern half of the state, what the producer actually has in their pasture is centipede grass. Centipede is a good turf grass for the same reason it is a horrible forage grass; it doesn’t produce very much no matter what you do to it. Centipede is different from many other weedy grasses, in that livestock will graze it. However, its forage yields are far too low for it to be a viable forage. Centipede “creeps” into pastures and often goes unnoticed until the infestation is quite substantial. If you have areas in your pastures that are green but appear not to grow, take the time to check and see if you have an infestation of centipede grass.
  • Soil Fertility – Our improved forage species are bred to be highly productive. However, to reach their potential they must have adequate fertility available all throughout the growing season. Expecting a forge to be highly productive without adequate fertility is akin to expecting an engine to produce maximum horsepower with a clogged fuel line. There may be some level of performance, but the true potential will not be realized. Fertilizing once a year is not sufficient to maximize forage potential. Even if large amounts of nutrients are applied in a single application (which is not advisable) the nutrient demands of the grass will not be met for the entire growing season. Nutrients, like Nitrogen and Potassium, do not remain available to the grass indefinitely. Some nutrients are taken up by plant roots, then grazed and converted into animal tissue or waste; while other nutrients are washed down through sandy soils by frequent rains until they are too deep to be accessed by plant roots. Either way, nutrients need to be replenished to maintain a productive pasture. Utilize a fertility program that is based on a soil test to help maximize forage production. See Fertilizing and Liming Forage Crops for more information on soil fertility management.
  • Grazing Management – A key concept to remember here is that, in general, the growth rate of forages increases as the amount of leaf area increases. In other words, as the plant gets bigger it can grow faster. When pastures remain closely grazed, their growth potential is suppressed due to insufficient leaf area. Implementing grazing strategies that allow your pastures to rest for 14-21 days between grazing periods will enable your grass to take full advantage of its rapid growth potential. Not to mention the improvement you’ll see in forage utilization. If you are not currently utilizing any form of rotational grazing, making the switch can be a little daunting, but the long-term benefits will be well worth the initial effort.

While rotational grazing can help improve forage availability, it cannot make up for an excessive stocking rate. As the number of animal units increases, at some point their nutritional demand will exceed what the forage is capable of producing, regardless of management strategies. If you have addressed all of the previously mentioned issues and your forage supply is low before fall arrives, it is highly likely that you have too many cows.

Overstocking/overgrazing can lead to centipede infestations and other weed problems, which compound the forage suppression that is caused by persistent lack of leaf area. Overgrazing can cause a rapid downward spiral in the overall health and performance of a pasture. Grazing Management Concepts and Practices provides more specific recommendations for improving your grazing management.

Main Image: The edge of a grazing cell (or paddock), used in an intensive rotational grazing system in Washington County. Inset: A closer view at the amount of forage awaiting the herd in the next cell. Both pictures taken 9/14/17.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

The list of issues above is by no means exhaustive. There are other factors that reduce forage productivity but in my experience the ones listed are the most frequent offenders. It is my hope that you read this without concern because your cows are fat as ticks, standing in belly deep grass. If that is not the case, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Agricultural Extension Agent for assistance identifying and fixing whatever the issue is that is limiting your forage production.

A “bonus” hayfield; acreage cut for hay in late July to more efficiently utilize excess mid-summer forage. Regrowth is being stockpiled and will be used to help bridge the fall forage gap. Picture taken 9/14/17.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin



Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/15/evaluate-forage-production-while-the-grass-is-still-growing/

Grass Worms

If you are one of the many that have taken advantage of the frequent rain in order to establish a new lawn, keep an eye open for “grass worms”. Though truly caterpillars, not worms, these destructive, chewing insects can wreak havoc on new sod.

Sod Webworm Photo by: Lyle Buss UF

Tropical sod webworm larvae are destructive pests of warm season turfgrasses in the southeastern U.S. especially on newly established sod. Larval feeding damage reduces turfgrass aesthetics, vigor, photosynthesis and density, which is very evident on finer-bladed grasses such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass.  Adults, a dull brown colored moth about ¾ inch long, rest in sheltered and shrubby areas during the day and are active at dusk.  Females deposit clusters of 10-35 eggs on the upper surface of grass blades.  The eggs hatch in 3-4 days and develop from a 1 mm long caterpillar to one over 11 mm long through six instars within 21 to 47 days, depending on temperature.  Larval feeding occurs at night, leaving the grass looking ragged, shortened and missing.

Control should be against damaging larvae, not the flying moths. However, insecticidal soap applications to moth harboring areas can reduce re-population frequency if such areas are located.  Soil-drenching soap flushes can be used to find the caterpillars, especially in dry and hot grass areas.  Bacterial-based insecticides will control sod webworm caterpillars without impacting beneficial species as long as they are applied with each flush of grass growth.

Excessive fertilizing will lead to caterpillar outbreaks in lawns. Newly installed sod is usually rich in nutrients and rapid growing, which makes it very attractive to sod webworms.  Grass installation over the summer months should be immediately followed by sod webworm treatment.

Fall Armyworm Photo by: Lyle Buss UF

Fall armyworms are also attracted to newly installed sod. They feed any time of the day or night, but are most active early in the morning or late in the evening.  The 1 ½ inch long gray and white moth lays about 1,000 eggs in multiple masses on any vegetation.  Two to 10 days later, the small caterpillar hatches and begins to grow to nearly 2 inches long over a two week period.  The fall armyworm is easily recognized by its dark head marked with a distinct pale-colored inverted Y and the long black stripe running along each side of its body.  These aggressive feeders “march” rapidly across grassed areas consuming every above-ground plant part.  While bacterial-based insecticides will reduce the numbers, control of armyworms usually requires synthetic insecticides.  Diligent inspection and early pesticide application is critical to establishment of new sod installed during the summer months.


Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/17/grass-worms/

The Grass is Getting “Hungry”

The Grass is Getting “Hungry”

(UF/IFAS photo Thomas Wright)

Northwest Florida’s weather patterns can present challenges to maintaining a health lawn. Heavy rains promote fast growth and relentless sunshine causes lawns to fade.  In the last 200 days we have received at least 68 days of rain.  While the rest of Florida was experiencing record drought, the Panhandle was experiencing torrential downpours.  With every drop of rain your spring fertilizer is being metabolized by the lawn, reducing how many nutrients remain in the soil.  Even the best slow-release fertilizer will only last 3-4 months.  The message is: “It’s time for more fertilizer.”

A healthy lawn is an important component of the urban landscape. Not only do lawns increase the value of a property, they also reduce soil erosion, filter stormwater runoff, cool the air, and reduce glare and noise.  A healthy lawn effectively filters and traps sediment and pollutants that could otherwise contaminate surface waters and groundwater.  Lawns require nutrients throughout the growing season to stay healthy.  In Northwest Florida the growing season is typically April to October.

Proper fertilization consists of selecting the right type of fertilizer and applying it at the right time and in the right amount for maximum plant uptake. The type of fertilizer should be based on a soil test, available through UF/IFAS Extension. The timing of application and amount of fertilizer is dependent on the research-based recommendations for the grass species and the fertilizer analysis of the product being used.

Chart excerpted from Florida Friendly Landscaping publication

Select only a fertilizer that states that the product is for use on residential turf. Do not use a fertilizer meant for flower or vegetable gardens on lawns. By Florida Administrative Code, Rule 5E-1.003, the Urban Turf Rule requires that the fertilizers being applied to residential lawns are labeled for the site and the application rates be followed.  Typically, these products will contain both slow-release nitrogen and low or no phosphorus.  Slow-release nitrogen will provide a longer-lasting response from the grass and reduces the potential for burning. For more information on the Urban Turf Rule go to: http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP35300.pdf.

With frequent rain the soil is also losing iron. Keep in mind that the green fading to yellow appearance in your lawn may be an iron deficiency.  Before applying your summer fertilizer put out a liquid chelated iron.  It will improve the health of the lawn while you are trying to find a dry day to fertilize.  While it is necessary to water in fertilizer with ¼” of water to reduce burn potential and volatilization, never apply fertilizer when heavy rain is expected.  The rainfall over ¼” can encourage runoff and/or leaching of that fertilizer, which can be costly and environmentally harmful.


Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/22/the-grass-is-getting-hungry/

A Florida Native; Tape Grass

A Florida Native; Tape Grass

Article by Gadsden County Extension Agent

DJ Zadarreyal


Vallisneria americana, also known as tape grass or eel grass, is a common native aquatic weed in the state of Florida. Tape grass has tall, grass-like leaves that are a light green in coloration and rise vertically from the crown to the top of the water. Once the leaves reach the top of the water, they casually float along the surface.

Common tape grass Vallisneria americana.
Photo: UF IFAS

The technique of propagation is by runners. These runners grow out from the crown along the sand and new plants arise from the end of them. There are separate male and female plants, although they grow on the same plant. The female flowers are on lengthy stems, which reach to the surface. However, the male flowers are loosely attached at the base of the leaves. When released, the male flowers float to the surface where they move alongside the female flowers to fertilize them.


A good way to distinguish tape grass from other weeds is to observe the leaves and the tips. Tape grass have round leaf tips while many other weeds have pointed leaf tips. In addition, tape grass is a submerged weed that possesses long, ribbon like leaves.


There are several uses for tape grass. Restoration of the pond floor is a useful purpose. One of the benefits of tape grass is that they are great oxygenators. Tape grass is also a common home based aquarium plant. They provide an eye-catching scene that fish and humans enjoy.




Guide of Tropical Fish, Everything You Need to Know About Tropical Fish


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/14/a-florida-native-tape-grass/

NISAW 2017: It is Common and Abundant, but Torpedo Grass is Still a Problem

Torpedo grass. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor.

They say the best time to attack an invasive species is early in its arrival. In the early stages is your best chance, using the most cost effective methods, of eradicating an invasive species from a region.  Hence our focus on Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) list.  That is not the case with Torpedo Grass.  It is now found in all Gulf coast states and along the Atlantic border to North Carolina.  In Florida, it has been reported from 64 of the 67 counties and has also been reported in California and Hawaii.  However, it is a problem plant and property owners should try to manage it as best they can.


There is a discussion as to the origins of torpedo grass (Panicum repens).  Some say Europe, others Australia, but we do know it is not native to the United States.  It was first introduced here in the late 19th century as a forage grass for livestock.  Being a tropical-subtropical plant, the introduction was in the southeastern U.S.  The young shoots have been selected by forging mammals, livestock and otherwise, but older plants become tough and the livestock ignore them for other species.  There are reports of waterfowl and songbirds using torpedo grass as habitat.  However, the cons out weigh the pros on this one.


Torpedo grass grows very quickly using underground rhizomes. Though they do produce seeds, these rhizomes, and their fragments, are the primary method of propagation for this plant.  It has been found that rhizomes buried as deep as 20 inches can sprout shoots.  This aggressive plant spreads quickly, outcompeting native grasses in disturbed areas.  They will displace forage grasses that livestock prefer and can inundate a pasture very quickly.  Though it is drought tolerant, torpedo grass prefers moist soils and can grow in water as deep as 6 feet.  Many property owners have used this grass to control shore erosion but here is where it has causes problems for others.  As on land, it grows very quickly.  Spreading across shallow waterways making them unnavigable.  It has caused problems with irrigation systems, stream flow, and flood control in some areas.  It has also invaded citrus groves and gold courses.


So how do we deal with this plant if it is on our property?

Torpedo Grass Photo Credit: Graves Lovell, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, www.bugwood.org


Well, we know it is not a fan of cold weather, but we are in Florida; even north Florida is suitable for it. We know it will not survive extreme hot periods.  We can only hope that it will get warm enough to knock back large acres of this thing; but warm temperatures like this are not good for most plants in our area – or animals for that matter.  There are no known biological controls at this time.  So that means we turn to herbicides.


Experience has shown that herbicides alone will knock it back, but rarely eradicates it from the area. Chemicals that have had success are glyphosate and imazapryl.  In both cases, an aquatically registered surfactant may be needed for good results.  When the torpedo grass is in water, herbicide treatment can be a problem.  First, the chemicals used are non-selective and may kill plants you do not want to lose.  Second, mats of dead torpedo grass have been known to decrease dissolved oxygen levels (due to decomposition) to levels where fish kills can occur.  Some studies have found that burning a field of torpedo grass and then treating with both glyphosate and imazapryl has had some success.  Treating first and then burning has not been as successful, nor has leaving one of the three out of the program.


As common and aggressive as this grass is, you may feel any attempt to control is feudal, but doing nothing can be very costly as well. We recommend properties with patches of this grass begin treatments soon, and if you have very little – remove as soon as you can.  To learn more visit one of the following websites:

Torpedo grass in Aquatic Environments

Torpedo grass Management in Turf



Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/28/nisaw-2017-it-is-common-and-abundant-but-torpedo-grass-is-still-a-problem/

Next Year’s Bahia Grass Depends on This Year’s Renovation Preparation

Next Year’s Bahia Grass Depends on This Year’s Renovation Preparation

Having Bahia grass ready to graze in 2017 depends on what you do in 2016.

Having Bahiagrass ready to graze in 2017 depends on what you do in 2016.

In that recent flash of time when cattle prices were the highest in my lifetime, many Florida ranchers seized the opportunity to invest some increased income in capital improvements for the ranch. Some fertilized according to soil test for the first time in years, some replaced worn out equipment, and some took the opportunity to plant or renovate Bahiagrass pasture.

In that high market, ranchers may have thought, “Prices are good, I don’t have to worry so much about doing this exactly right.” Now that the good times seem as distant as civil political discussion, doing it right has renewed importance.

I’ve visited several recently renovated fields this year, and here are some of the shortcuts that have come back to bite the rancher.

• Failure to rid the new pasture of weed populations BEFORE planting.
This is particularly important when planting improved varieties in fields which have Pensacola Bahiagrass in them. Bahiagrass’s popularity stems from its persistence. There are no herbicides which can differentiate between Pensacola and its descendants, Tifton 9 and Riata. Moving from Pensacola to one of these varieties may require burning down existing Bahiagrass, and planting a winter feed crop such as oats or cereal rye before planting next year. This intermediate crop may need to be burned down again before planting to assure a clean field.

Wait until after your Bahiagrass is established to add legumes to the mix. If you use broadleaf herbicides for your Bahiagrass, you’ll lose your legumes. That’s another expense you can avoid.

• Planting too deep.
Bahiagrass should be planted only one quarter to one half inch deep. Planting into loose soil or improper drill settings can put the seed below that and decrease seedling vigor and germination. That’s another loss of time and money.

• Failure to use adequate seeding rates.
Recommended seeding rates for Tifton 9, Riata and TifQuik are 15 – 20 pounds per acre and 20 – 30 pounds for Argentine with the lower rates for drilled seed in prepared ground and the higher rates for broadcast applications. Cutting corners on seed rate leaves more open ground, which allows weeds to compete more effectively with Bahiagrass seedlings. A thick, vigorous stand reduces weed competition. Yes, seed is expensive, but if you can’t afford to do it right, can you really afford to do it over?

• Grazing the new crop too soon.
Bahiagrass persistence depends on having sufficient leaf area to sustain itself. Make sure the forage is fully established before grazing. It is possible to get grazing in the season of establishment, however your goal is to have pasture for many years. Jumping the gun can decrease the useful life of the pasture. The IFAS recommendation for minimum stubble height is three inches, if rotationally grazed, and five inches if continuously stocked. You may well be renovating your fields because you’ve overgrazed them in the past. Don’t throw good money after bad.

• Inadequate fertility
The IFAS publication, Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum): Overview and Management, recommends “Light fertilization of Bahiagrass will generally be necessary within 7–10 days after seedling emergence. The initial application should consist of 30 lb nitrogen (N)/acre, all of the recommended P2O5, and 50% of the recommended K2O. Approximately 40–50 days after the initial application, an additional 50 lb of nitrogen and the remaining K2O should be applied.”  Many renovations skip this step out of false economy. In addition, soil pH should be 5.5 before planting.

• No rain
Unless you’re planting under the “Silver Cloud” (irrigation), I can’t help you here. However, Bahiagrass seed can lie dormant for longer than you might think. One of my neighbors had seed in the ground 3 months before a decent rain got it going. Of course, “If it doesn’t rain, it doesn’t matter.”

Chris Prevatt’s market projections in his Panhandle Ag October 7th article show next year’s calf prices below breakeven prices and trending lower. Even though properly renovated pastures are a long term investment and may be more likely justified over time, this near term market downturn intensifies the urgency of ensuring the necessary care and attention be paid to getting everything right in your renovation project. There’s no room for error in this market.


Portions of this article were adapted from “Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum): Overview and Management”  and “The Management and Use of Bahiagrass”



Author: Jed Dillard – dillardjed@ufl.edu

Jefferson County Livestock and Natural Resources Agent with a commercial cow/calf background. My degree is in animal breeding, but I do more work wth forage systems. Long time clover/legume booster for both livestock and wildlife

Jed Dillard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/28/next-years-bahia-grass-depends-on-this-years-renovation-preparation/

Brunswick Grass: a Weed Contaminant in Bahiagrass Seed Production Fields

Brunswick Grass: a Weed Contaminant in Bahiagrass Seed Production Fields

Ann Blount, Jay Ferrell, Anthony Drew, Jose Dubeux, and Cheryl Mackowiak (in cooperation with Johnny Melton, Jack Melton Family, Inc.)

Brunswick grass (Paspalum nicorae Parodi), sometimes referred to as “Brown seeded paspalum,” is becoming a problematic weed in summer perennial grass pastures in the southeast. Brunswick grass is a perennial summer grass, with a similar growing season and appearance to that of bahiagrass.  This plant is native to South America and was introduced as a soil conservation plant for erosion control and as a potential forage crop. This plant has become naturalized and has contaminated some bahiagrass pastures and more significantly seed production fields in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

Brunswick Grass - Paspalum_nicoraeBrunswick grass is competitive with bahiagrass and bermudagrass.  Cattle will consume Brunswick grass when it is young and tender, however, it quickly becomes rank and loses its palatability, causing cattle to avoid grazing it.   Since it is less palatable, the plant gains a competitive advantage and will eventually dominate in perennial grass pastures. Brunswick grass has reportedly contaminated bahiagrass seed fields and pastures in several Florida counties, including Gilchrist, Levy, Alachua, Citrus and Sumter.

The seed of Brunswick grass is close in size to that of Pensacola bahiagrass. This has made it difficult for bahiagrass seed processors to effectively eliminate Brunswick grass to meet total weed seed specifications (2.0 %) for saleable seed. Brunswick grass is more easily removed from Argentine than Pensacola bahiagrass due to greater seed size differential.

The best method to stop the spread of Brunswick Grass is to avoid harvesting seed from pastures contaminated with this grass weed.  Seed producers must scout for Brunswick grass prior to seed harvest, to avoid the further distribution of this weed.  To our knowledge, no herbicides currently exist that will selectively remove Brunswick grass without severely injuring or killing the desirable pasture grasses. Therefore, high rates of glyphosate should be utilized to kill the pasture as the first step of total renovation. Mechanical cultivation alone may not eliminate Brunswick grass. Mechanical cultivation, in addition to herbicides and crop rotation, should provide successful control of Brunswick grass, since seed survival in a seed bank is not believed to be long-term.

It is important to remember that large quantities of bahiagrass seed are sold without any field inspections for purity, resulting in the sale of contaminated seed for use in new pasture plantings. When purchasing seed to establish new pastures, purchase only from reliable seed sources.

It is very important that livestock producers and bahia seed harvesters learn to identify Brunswick grass.  If producers are considering seed production, fields should be scouted for Brunswick grass first, before making the investment in additional fertilization needed for optimal seed production.  Seed harvesters should also become familiar with this grass weed to avoid contamination. The following are comparisons of Brunswick grass and Pensacola bahia.  If you need help positively identifying this grass, work with your County Extension Agent.  If needed, they can have samples sent in to the University of Florida Herbarium for positive identification.

Brunswick grass is a perennial summer grass, with a similar growing season and appearance to that of Pensacola bahiagrass (Fig. 1).

Blount Figure 1 Brunswick vs Bahia

Figure 1. Seed head of Brunswick grass and seed (left) (courtesy of Bruce Cook, CIAT) and Pensacola bahiagrass (right) (courtesy of Carlos Acuna, UNNE).

It has a deep and aggressive rhizome system that appears very different from bahiagrass rhizomes (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Rhizome comparison of Brunswick grass (left) and Pensacola bahiagrass (left center). Whole plant of Brunswick grass with leaves and rhizomes (far right)

Figure 2. Rhizome comparison of Brunswick grass (left) and Pensacola bahiagrass (left center). Whole plant of Brunswick grass with leaves and rhizomes (far right)

Brunswick grass seed are slightly smaller than that of Pensacola bahiagrass, and the seed coat has a dark, chestnut brown center that varies somewhat in size by variety (Figs. 3 and 4).

Figure 3. Seed of Brunswick grass (left) and Pensacola bahiagrass (right).

Figure 3. Seed of Brunswick grass (left) and Pensacola bahiagrass (right).

Figure 4. Close up of seed of Brunswick grass

Figure 4. Close up of seed of Brunswick grass

For more information on Brunswick Grass:

Tropical Forage Fact Sheet



Author: Ann Blount – paspalum@ufl.edu


Ann Blount

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/27/brunswick-grass-a-weed-contaminant-in-bahiagrass-seed-production-fields/

Fall Color with Muhly Grass

Fall Color with Muhly Grass

As September rolls into October and we finally experience cooler temperatures, I always look forward to seeing one of my favorite native grasses in full bloom. Muhlenbergia capillaris, or Muhly grass, is an extremely versatile plant in the home landscape. It is both flood and drought tolerant and easy to maintain. A true local, it is typically found growing in beach dune areas, sandhills, pine flatwoods or coastal uplands. It provides nesting material and shelter for birds and small animals, and is known to attract beneficial ladybugs.

The dramatic color of Muhly grass in the fall makes it a favorite for home landscapes. Photo credit: UF IFAS Escambia Extension

The dramatic color of Muhly grass in the fall makes it a favorite for home landscapes. Photo credit: UF IFAS Escambia Extension

Muhly grass grows in a clumping form, usually 2-3 feet in height and width, and looks great in clusters as a border along the edge of a building or lawn. It can also be used as an eye-catching centerpiece in a landscape. The plant’s most notable feature, however, appears in late September and early October. This is when hundreds of filamentous blossoms form a dramatic display of deep pinkish purple. When the wind blows the colorful blooms, it creates an appearance of a pink cloud hovering over the grass.

Muhly grass is semi-evergreen, turning more copper in color as it gets colder. The only maintenance needed is voluntary; in late winter it can be trimmed down to 6-8″ to remove older, dead blades before the growing season. This plant was chosen as the 2012 Plant of the Year by the Garden Club of America, and is a great selection for our area.

For more information on the plant, please visit UF IFAS “Gardening Solutions” or speak to your local UF IFAS Extension horticulture agent.



Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/09/23/fall-color-with-muhly-grass/

Why Is My Grass Dying Again?

“We have replaced this grass several times over the past few years; and it’s dying again.”  I have heard this complaint too many times this summer.  Last summer’s heavy rain, the stress of January’s icy weather, and this year’s extended summer have contributed to widespread outbreaks of Take-All Root Rot, a soil-inhabiting fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. graminis.

Symptoms of Take-All-Root-Rot. Photo credit: Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS.

Symptoms of Take-All-Root-Rot. Photo credit: Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS.

This disease causes yellow grass patches ranging in diameter from a few inches to more than 15 feet. The symptoms first appear in the spring, but the disease can persist all summer and survive the winter. Over time, the entire area dies as the root system rots away.  The pathogen is naturally present on warm-season turfgrass roots. High rainfall and stressed turfgrass trigger the disease.

Since the roots are affected, they are not able to efficiently obtain water or nutrients from the soil, nor are they able to store the products of photosynthesis, which result in the loss of color in the leaves. By the time the leaf symptoms appear, the pathogen has been active on the roots for several weeks, probably longer; the disease has been there potentially for years. If the turfgrass is not stressed, leaf symptoms may never be observed.

This disease is very difficult to control once the aboveground symptoms are observed. Measures that prevent or alleviate stress are the best methods for controlling the disease. Any stress (environmental or manmade) placed on the turf weakens it, making it more susceptible to disease. Remember, that every maintenance practice, fertilizer application, and chemical (especially herbicide), application has an impact on turfgrass health.  Cultural practices that impact the level of stress experienced by a lawn include:

  • proper turfgrass species selection
  • mowing at the correct height
  • irrigation timing, frequency and volume
  • fertilizer: nitrogen and potassium sources and application quantities
  • thatch accumulation, and
  • soil compaction

The selection of turfgrass species should be based on existing soil pH, sunlight exposure, use of the area and planned maintenance level.

Mower blades must be sharp to avoid tearing of the leaves. Additionally, turfgrasses that are cut below their optimum height become stressed and more susceptible to diseases, especially root rots. When any disease occurs, raise the cutting height. Scalping the grass damages the growing point. Raising the cutting height increases the green plant tissue available for photosynthesis, resulting in more energy for turfgrass growth and subsequent recovery from disease.

If an area of the lawn has an active fungus, washing or blowing off the mower following use will reduce the spread of the disease to unaffected areas.

The amount of water and the timing of its application can prevent or contribute to disease development. Most fungal pathogens that cause leaf diseases require free water (rainfall, irrigation, dew) on the leaf to initiate the infection process. Irrigating every day for a few minutes is not beneficial for the turfgrass because it does not provide enough water to the root zone, but it is beneficial for turfgrass pathogens. It is always best to irrigate when dew is already present, usually between 2 and 8 a.m., and then only apply enough water to wet the root zone of the turfgrass.TARR Symptoms sdunning

Excessively high nitrogen fertility contributes to turfgrass diseases. The minimum amount required for the grass species should be applied. Potassium (K) is an important component in the prevention of diseases, because it prevents plant stress. Application of equal amounts of nitrogen and potassium is recommended for turfgrass health. When turfgrass roots are damaged from disease, it is beneficial to apply nutrients in a liquid solution. However, nitrate-nitrogen increases the severity of diseases, so their use should be avoided when possible. Ammonium-containing fertilizers are the preferred nitrogen sources.

Heavy liming has also been linked to increases in Take-All Root Rot. Since most turfgrasses can tolerate a range of pH, maintaining soil at 5.5 to 6.0 can suppress the development of the pathogen. When the disease is active, frequent foliar applications of small amounts of nutrients is necessary to keep the turfgrass from declining.

Additional maintenance practices that need to be addressed are thatch removal and reduction of soil compaction. Excessive thatch often causes the mower to sink which can result in scalping and reducing the amount of leaf tissue capable of photosynthesizing. Thatch and compacted soil prevent proper drainage, resulting in areas remaining excessively wet, depriving root systems of oxygen.  Since recovery of Take-All-Root-Rot damaged turfgrass is often poor, complete renovation of the lawn may be necessary. Removal of all diseased tissue is advised.

As a native soil-inhabiting pathogen, Take-All-Root-Rot cannot be eliminated. However, suppression of the organism through physical removal followed by proper cultivation of the new sod is critical to the establishment of a new lawn. Turfgrass management practices, not chemicals, offer the best control of the disease.

It is acceptable to use fungicides on a preventative basis while rooting in the sod. Azoxystrobin, fenarimol, myclobutanil, propiconazole, pyraclostrobin, thiophate methyl, and triadimefon are all fungicides that can be utilized to prevent disease development while having to excessively irrigate newly laid sod. Ideally, the turf area should be mowed and irrigated prior to a fungicide application. Unless the product needs to be watered in, do not irrigate for at least 24 hours after a chemical treatment. Do not mow for at least 24 hours, to avoid removal of the product attached to the leaf blades.

With all the stresses that our lawns have experienced, it is very important to continue monitoring the turf and be cautious about the cultural practices being used.  Take-All Root Rot is likely to flourish.  Do not encourage its development.  A pathology test with the University of Florida Laboratory can confirm the presence of the disease causing organism.  Before resodding again, have the dying sod tested.

For information and the submission form go to:

Sample Submission Guide

For more information on the disease go to:




Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/09/16/why-is-my-grass-dying-again/

Native Grass for Moist Soils

Native Grass for Moist Soils

Native plants can more readily be found in local nurseries to enhance landscape plantings. Not all natives are suited to every habit so it is still important to match the plant’s requirements with a suitable area in the landscape.

Gamma grass

One low maintenance native that is more suited to a specific area is the landscape is the Gamma or Fakahatchee grass (Tripsacum dactyloides and T. floridana). This clumping perennial grass grows best in moist or even boggy soils. It has attractive green foliage and upright flower stems that appear in mid summer. Although the flowers are not very significant, they do have a red color when viewed up close.

The Eastern gamma grass can grow five feet in height so many gardeners prefer the dwarf version that reaches about 2-3 feet in height. Plant in areas of full sun or partial shade as a specimen plant or use in a mass of three or five.

In areas that receive colder temperatures, gamma grass can add fall interest to the garden. Leaves will change to a shade of red with first frost and plants can die back to the ground during freezing winters. New growth returns in the spring. Basic maintenance includes pruning back in the spring.


Author: Beth Bolles – bbolles@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Escambia County

Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/07/21/native-grass-for-moist-soils/

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