Submitted to: Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 17, 2006
Publication Date: October 11, 2006
Citation: Ritchie, J.C., Krizek, D.T., Gitz, D.C., Foy, C.D. 2006. A nine-year study of biomass production by eastern gamagrass. In: Proceedings of the Fifth Eastern Native Grass Symposium, October 10-13, 2006, Madison, Wisconsin. p. 28-33.
Interpretive Summary: Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides (L.) L.) is among the various native grasses that have been adapted for use as forage. It is a warm-season perennial bunch type grass, which is high in energy and crude protein content. This study followed the biomass production of eastern gamagrass during a nine-year period on a degraded hill slope with increasing soil acidity and decreasing surface soil depth (A horizon) from the bottom to top of the hill slope. No trend toward reduced biomass production was noted over the nine-year period even with the elimination of fertilizer application the last two years of the study period. Total biomass production was related to slope position and soil quality. Rainfall distribution rather than total rainfall appears to be the major factor influencing the production between years. This study demonstrated that eastern gamagrass produced good forage biomass under marginal soil and adverse environmental conditions. As a warm-season forage or for fuel biomass, eastern gamagrass has continued to provide high biomass and good forage over a nine-year period under a range of environmental conditions in the mid-Atlantic region and shows potential for improving soil conditions on acid degraded soils.
With increasing emphasis on sustainable agriculture, there is renewed interest in the use of native plants as alternative sources for forage, fuel, and soil improvement. Eastern gamagrass [Tripsacum dactyloides (L.) L.] is a native, warm-season, perennial grass that is found in the eastern United States and is used for forage, fuel, and soil improvement. The objective of this study was to measure biomass production of eastern gamagrass grown on a degraded, acid soil at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD. Eastern gamagrass was planted in 1996 and forage samples were harvested and biomass determined at time of heading from 1997 through 2005 from plants grown on the degraded hill slope with increasing soil acidity and decreasing surface soil depth from the bottom to top of the hill slope. Slope position and year of harvest had the greatest effect on biomass production. In general, eastern gamagrass biomass was related to soil conditions and environmental stress (rainfall). This 9-year study would indicate that it is probably the timing of the rainfall that is more important than the total annual rainfall.