Description / Origin
Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) Their are several varieties of Buffel grass (buffelgrass). This publication will be refering to the "common" variety (T-4464)which is the most commericially used variety.
Buffel grass is a perennial grass with a knotty crown base and a deep root system. Its foilage is bright green and its seed head is brown to purple.
Buffel grass is native to South Africa and India. It was introduced to Texas in the 1940's.
Adaptation / Establishment
% Germination & % Dormant Trends Over Time
Since its introduction to Texas in the 1940's, Buffel grass has become the most popular grass in South Texas for its drought tolerance properties. Buffel grass is widely used around the world in areas where it is warm and dry (Africa, India, Australia, Mexico, Central America, South America, etc.). Buffel grass has a wide soil adaptation; however, it will not do well in poor soil drainage areas. Buffel grass will even grow in Caliche.
Soil preparation for Buffel grass planting is similar to other crops. Tillage will re-introduce organic matter residues to the soil and eliminate weeds. It will also soften the soil to allow the roots to grow with minimal resistance.
Depending on the soil preparation, the seed rate may vary. The more soil preparation, the less seed per acre is requied. As a rule of thumb, 3-7 pounds per acre (3.36-7.85 kilogramos / hectaria) are required. The seed rate is also dependent on the seed purity and germination. A better way to express seed rate per acre is on a "Pure Live Seed (PLS)" basis.
Percent (%) germination refers to the % of the pure seed which has shown by test to be able to germinate. The % dormant refers to the % of the pure seed which is currently dormant but will germinate once the germination inhibitor disapears. When Buffel grass seed is harvested, the seed contains a germination inhibitor which goes away with time. The seed starts with a low % germination and a high % dormant. After 5-6 months, the % dormant should be zero (0) and the % germination should be at its pick which should be close to the sum of the % germination and the % dormant when the seed was harvested.
If you want to plant 3 pounds/acre on a 100% pure life seed (PLS) basis and you are using seed that is 80% PLS, you would take 3 divided by 0.8 (80%) and end up with 3.75 pounds/acre of actual seed needed. The PLS is calculated by using the following equation:
%PLS = (% germination + % dormant)* % pure seed. Example:
% germination = 80%, % dormant = 10%, and the pure seed is 88%, then: %PLS = (80+10)*0.88 or 79.2% PLS.
The higher the seed rate, the thicker the pasture will be initiallly. The seed cost tends to be a small percentage of the total cost, so it is recommended to plant the seed at the higher rate > 5 pounds/acre to give you a better establishment.
Buffel grass seed is very light. The seed has the hull (feary skin) thus having a low bulk density. The seed can be broadcasted using various different spreaders. We use the EZ Flow type spreaders which are also used for spreading fertilizer. You can adjust the rate by adjusting the opening size.
Once the seed is broadcasted, the seed should be covered with a thin layer (1/4 to 3/4 inch) of soil. You should not cover the seed too deep. Seed covering can be accomplished by many different ways. An economical way is by dragging a wide object with a tractor such as a chain, 2x4 board, bull panel, etc.; however, you should consider the safety precautions with dragging any object with a tractor which is not designed for that purpose.
Buffel grass can be planted generally in the spring (March-April) and in the fall (September) depending in the area where it is being planted.
Management / Fertilization
Do not graze Buffel grass or cut for hay until it has matured. Buffel grass has matured when it drops its first seeds. If your pasture is not as full as you want it (not well establish), you may want to let it re-seed and multiply until it reaches a full pasture.
Once a full Buffel grass pasture has been established, grazing or cutting the grass for hay may begin. Good range management practices are recommended such as changing cattle/livestock from one pasture to another periodically to allow pastures to recover by not over grazing.
When approaching the late fall, leave more of the plant standing to protect basal buds from possible winter damage. The further north, winter damage can be more of an issue.
Buffel grass pastures can be managed for weeds and brush by burning the pasture or by applying herbicides designed for this purpose. When burning the pasture, you have to be carefull that it is coincided with normal or above normal rainfall because Buffel grass requires more water following the burn due to Buffel grass growth. Keep safety in mind while conducting controlled pasture burning. You may need a burning permit from your local authorities prior to starting your control burning. Also keep in mind safety precautions while handling herbicides. You may need special licenses to handle certain herbicides. Consult professional help such as your herbicide supplier, your government agriculture department office, herbicide manufacture, material safety data sheets (MSDS), etc.
Buffel grass has a high demand for nitrogen and phosphorous. Buffel grass like most other grasses, responds well to fertilizer applications. A soil analysis or past pasture performance should indicate the nutrient status of the soil. Buffel grass production declines in the years after establishment due to depleation of nitrogen and phosphorous. Soil disturbance by chisel or disc plough (renovation) will re-mineralize organic nitrogen tied up in organic matter.
Performance / Benefits
Buffel grass growth from early spring through late summer. It may grow well during the fall depending on weather conditions. Buffel grass is drought tolerant and will grow with minimal rainfall during the hottest part of the summer when most other grasses won't. Buffel grass will seed several times per year depending on rainfall. Seed production may range between 40-150 pounds/acre/year. Buffel grass will normally produce around 15,000 pounds of dry matter per acre per year.
Buffel grass is unique in benefits because it is drought tolerant, rapid growth with minimal rainfall, seeding rate, dry matter/acre, excellent root system which helps prevent errosion (Buffel grass can be seen along many Texan & Mexican highways preventing soil errosion), excellent means of feed for cattle, its wide soil adaptability, and quick response to fertilization or renovation.
There are many varieties of Buffel grass and new ones are currently being developed; however, the "common or T-4464" continues to be the most common because of its excellent performance, benefits, and lower cost compared to newly developed varieties which normally run 10 times higher in cost. If you are planting Buffel grass where T-4464 does very well, T-4464 is recommended over any other variety.
The Buffel Grass Seed Company sincerely hopes that the above information helps you in maximizing your Buffel grass pasture. Again, we tried to provide you with as much information and we took all reasonable steps to ensure data accuracy; however, The Buffel Grass Seed Company is not responsible or liable for the accuracy of this information. Growing and managing pastures is not an exact science.