Story: Pastures

Page 4. Dryland grasses

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Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) is a hardy, drought-tolerant grass, which grows strongly during summer because of its deep roots. It must be regularly grazed or it becomes coarse and unpalatable.

Cocksfoot contains no endophyte fungus, so can be safely grazed during dry summers. It grows well with perennial ryegrass, but dense types of cocksfoot can be aggressive competitors with other grasses. It can withstand close grazing. It is generally very tolerant to pest attack, but can suffer fungal rust disease.

Tall fescue

Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is another deep-rooted grass that tolerates heat and drought. It also withstands acid, alkaline and saline soils with poor drainage, and is becoming a popular alternative to ryegrass in drier regions. It thrives on highly fertile soils and responds well to nitrogen fertiliser.

Tall fescue is normally planted with clover. It is never sown with ryegrass as tall fescue establishes itself more slowly, and so is overtaken by the faster-growing ryegrass. Tall fescue is best sown on warm soils in February or October. Grazing should be frequent during spring to prevent the development of seed heads and a slowing of growth.

New Zealand seed does not contain any toxic endophyte, but an endophyte has been introduced in some types to protect against insect pests.

Prairie grass

Prairie grass (Bromus willdenowii, B. catharticus or B. unioloides) is a large-leafed grass with broad foliage. It grows well during winter and early spring, and tolerates drought, but it persists for only about four years. Prairie grass thrives on free-draining fertile soils and does not tolerate waterlogged conditions, animal treading or acidic soil. It grows well on the eastern coasts of the North and South islands.

Its large-seeded flowerheads are quite palatable to grazing stock, unlike those of most other grasses.

Grazing brome

Grazing brome (Bromus stamineus) is closely related to prairie grass, but has finer leaves and tillers (shoots from the base of the stem), which help it tolerate close grazing. Like prairie grass, it grows well in dry eastern regions as quality winter and summer feed. Grazing brome grows best on medium-to-light-textured soils with free drainage.

How to cite this page:

Deric Charlton, 'Pastures - Dryland grasses', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 June 2024)

Story by Deric Charlton, published 24 Nov 2008