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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Coastal Bermudagrass
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Coastal bermudagrass is still among the best perennial pasture and hay grasses for much of the Southeast. Success with it requires proper management. Here=s how:

SOIL REQUIREMENTS

Coastal bermuda will grow on any reasonably well drained soil from sands to heavy clays if properly limed and fertilized.

ESTABLISHMENT

1. Plant only in moist, well-prepared, fertilized (500 lbs. 6-12-12 per acre), weed-free soil. Keep fallowed and plant immediately after a rain.

2. Plant only pure, live sprigs as soon as possible after a rain.

3. Set sprigs erect with part deep to get moisture and tip showing above soil.

4. Control weeds. Spray with 2,4-D (2 lbs/A) or Simazine (2 to 3 lbs/A) immediately after sprigging.

5. Fertilize by broadcasting 100 lbs N/A as soon as runners develop.

6. Graze lightly or cut hay first year.

FERTILIZATION

1. (Winter) Test soil and lime to keep pH above 5.5 and correct severe deficiencies.

2. (Late February) Burn when first shoots emerge to control winter weeds, spittlebug and other pests.

3. (Mid-March) Broadcast first application of N-P-K.

4. Fertilize only enough to produce the grazing (30 to 200 lbs N/A) or forage (200 to 600 lbs N/A) needed.

5. Pound for pound of N, ammonium nitrate and nitrate of soda are best. Ammonium sulfate requires 3 times as much lime to correct acid residue. Urea N is 80% as good because of N loss to air from urease activity. The lag in response to anhydrous NH3 will cut first hay yield a half-ton or more.

6. P and K are essential. A 4-1-2 ratio of N-P205-K20 is usually an adequate minimum. Be sure there is at least 1 pound of K20 per 2 pounds of N applied.

7. Split N and sometimes P and K applications for best results.

8. Minor elements are rarely needed.

GRAZING MANAGEMENT

1. Graze close for maximum carrying capacity.

2. Graze light enough to allow some grass to accumulate for maximum daily gains.

3. Fertilize and mow to keep a surplus of young, succulent grass for milking cows.

4. Carry less than 4 animals per acre to keep parasites down and get best gains.

GREEN-CHOP MANAGEMENT FOR MILK COWS

1. Fertilize with 400 lbs N/A/year plus adequate P and K.

2. Start green-chopping forage early and cut every 21 days thereafter.

3. Chop grass as short as possible.

4. Chop and feed morning and night.

HAY MANAGEMENT

1. Fertilize with 200 to 400 lbs of N/A plus adequate P and K.

2. Take first cut when grass is about 18 inches high and cut every 4 to 5 weeks thereafter.

3. Use the calendar and never let more than 6 weeks elapse between cuts.

4. Six-week cuts give maximum annual yields. Hay 4, 6, and 13 weeks old gives daily gains of 1.2, .9, and 0.

5. Avoid rain, if possible. One rain can cut the nutritive value of the hay one-third.

SILAGE MANAGEMENT

1. Fertilize as for hay and cut and chop as short as possible every 4 to 5 weeks.

2. Pack tightly in an airtight silo without allowing grass to wilt.

3. Add 100 lbs of ground corn or citrus pulp per tone to make top-quality silage.

4. Such high-protein silage, fed with lower-protein concentrates, has been about equal to corn silage at Clemson University.

MANAGEMENT FOR PELLET PRODUCTION

Pelleting improves the efficiency with which Coastal bermuda is converted to animal products and increases daily gains over grazing 20 to 30%.

1. Fertilize and cut at least as frequently as recommended for hay.

MANAGEMENT FOR CAROTENOID-PIGMENT PRODUCTION

Coastal bermuda meal is equal, or superior, to alfalfa meal as a source of carotene and xanthophyll. To produce it:

1. Fertilize with 600 lbs of N plus P and K annually.

2. Cut every 21 to 24 days. Pigment and protein content drops rapidly with age.

3. Dehydrate, pellet and store with inert gas till fed.

MANAGEMENT FOR LEGUME ASSOCIATIONS

1. Choose a well-adapted legume. Crimson clover is frequently best.

2. Graze close or burn off old grass.

3. Lime soil to above pH 6.5 and apply 500 lbs of 0-10-20 plus 10 lbs of borax each fall.

4. Plant 15 to 20 lbs of inoculated seed of Dixie or other reseeding variety after rain in late fall. Moisten seed with syrup to hold inoculum.

5. Introduce bees and restrict spring grazing for maximum seed yields. One colony of bees per 3 acres should increase yields 4 fold. Good seed yields every year are necessary for reseeding.

6. Top-dress, if at all, with no more than 100 lbs/A of N during the summer.

WEED CONTROL

1. Adequate fertilization and utilization usually give satisfactory weed control.

2. Apply 1 to 2 lbs/A of the amine salt of 2,4-D to control most broadleafed weeds and annual grasses not germinated. Apply when weeds are small for best results.

INSECT CONTROL

1. Burn in late winter to control spittlebug.

2. Control armyworm when small with 4 oz/A of Parathion or 2 lbs/A of Sevin. Do not graze for 15 days after spraying Parathion.

ERADICATION

Coastal bermudagrass has shallow rhizomes and although it produces heads, they rarely contain seed. Frequently only one disk-tilling during dry weather will completely eradicate it. The disk-tiller must be set deep enough to cut under the rhizomes and separate them from their roots.

________________

Glenn W. Burton


Last Modified: 7/21/2010
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