Submitted to: Warm Season Grasses
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 2003
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Citation: Mitchell, R., Vogel, K.P. 2004. Indiangrass. p. 937-953. In L.E. Moser, L. Sollenberger, and B. Burson (ed.). Warm-season grasses. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Monograph. Madison, WI. Interpretive Summary: There are approximately 20 species of indiangrass, ranging from Canada, to the United States of America, Cuba, Mexico, South America, and tropical Africa. Indiangrass, slender indiangrass, and lopsided indiangrass are indigenous to North America. Indiangrass is the most important and widely distributed species, with slender indiangrass and lopsided indiangrass limited to the southeastern USA. Indiangrass was a major component of the Tallgrass Prairie in the Central USA, along with big bluestem, switchgrass, and little bluestem. Indiangrass has been reported in all of the lower 48 United States except Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada. The primary advantage indiangrass has in comparison to other warm-season grasses is that it matures later in the season and hence produces higher quality forage in late summer and early autumn. Indiangrass is well-suited to use worldwide because it grows well on a variety of soils with minimal inputs, responds well to fertilization, is water-use efficient, provides excellent grazing and hay, and fills a critical forage availability gap.
Technical Abstract: The indiangrasses belong to the genus Sorghastrum which consists of approximately 20 species, primarily in tropical and subtropical Africa and the Americas. Eight species and one sub-species are identified in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), with distributional ranges from Canada, the United States of America, Cuba, Mexico, South America, and tropical Africa. Indiangrass is the most important and widely distributed of the Sorghastrum species, with slender indiangrass and lopsided indiangrass limited to the southeastern USA. Indiangrass is an erect, warm season (C4) perennial grass with short, stout creeping rhizomes. Although some sources report that the Sorghastrums are caespitose, indiangrass plants growing throughout the central Great Plains of the USA in native stands and on managed grazing lands are rhizomatous. Indiangrass is cross pollinated by wind. Indiangrass was a cohort of big bluestem, switchgrass, and little bluestem as the primary grass components of the True Prairie in the central USA, and comprised about 15% of late seral prairie in Nebraska. The primary advantage indiangrass has in comparison to other C4 grasses is that it matures later in the season and hence produces better (higher nutritive value) forage in late summer and early autumn. The primary disadvantages are its chaffy seed and, historically, establishment difficulties due to its lack of seedling atrazine tolerance. The development of new herbicides for managing weed competition in seedings containing indiangrass will likely increase its use for pastures and conservation plantings, and likely increase breeding efforts. These factors will likely increase indiangrass use for forage in the Great Plains and western Corn Belt of the USA, and provide an opportunity for use in the 30 to 40o north latitude zone world-wide.