Some Extension specialists estimate that 80% of questions are asked over and over throughout the years. I have started a list of the most common questions below and created an archive for them. Feel free to search through the questions below before contacting your local county agent. As always, different conditions and operations often need different solutions; hopefully the information in this section can help direct producers down the right path. By subscribing to the RSS feed on the left, your RSS reader will be notified when this section is updated.
I’m always tempted to answer this question with a “yes” as you can definitely PLANT these species in South Carolina. Unfortunately, they will not SURVIVE or be a productive forage crop even in the short term. Our South Carolina weather is simply not suited for the production and persistence of either timothy or Kentucky bluegrass. It is best to avoid these species and consider adapted forages for hay and pasture.
This is far and away the most common question I receive as a forage specialist. There are at least three excellent options for hybrid bermudagrass. Coastal is the old standby, which has been around for over 60 years. It is still a phenomenal hybrid and remains the variety to which every new release is compared. It is high yielding, disease resistant and high quality. Frankly, you cannot go wrong with this hybrid in South Carolina. Russell is a new variety that is similar to Coastal in yield and quality, but is quicker to establish. Russell does not typically grow as tall as Coastal, but is more ‘compact’ and forms a denser sod. Many forage specialists claim that it is probably more cold hardy than Coastal, but this is not a large issue for any location in South Carolina except for the mountain area. Sprigs of Russell are not readily available in South Carolina. Tifton 85 is a phenomenal ‘new’ variety that was released approximately 14 years ago. It establishes rapidly and yields approximately 25% more than Coastal bermudagrass in hay conditions. Digestibility of Tifton 85 is also approximately 10% higher than Coastal. These yield and quality increases translate to higher carrying capacity and calf weaning weights in cow-calf systems. The cold hardiness of Tifton 85 is still under debate, but should be more than adequate on the Coastal Plain area of South Carolina and into the Midlands. Tifton 85 has coarser stems and leaves than either Coastal or Russell which increases curing time about 18 to 24 hours. Some horse hay buyers find this coarseness attractive, but others refuse to buy it. Please know your market before establishing Tifton 85 if planning to sell square bales to horse owners. If you are planning to graze a hybrid bermudagrass with cow-calf pairs in the lower portion of South Carolina, Tifton 85 is the hybrid for you.
Visit with your local county agent about specific details of bermudagrass sprigging and most importantly ALWAYS check references and hire a reputable sprigger. A clean nursery field is absolutely critical as is the handling of sprigs between digging and planting. The ideal time for sprigging bermudagrass is just prior to when bermudagrass breaks winter dormancy. This is typically late March through early May depending upon location in the Carolinas and Spring weather. Bermudagrass can be successfully sprigged or established from clippings well into the summer; however, risk of winter damage or losses to drought increase as sprigging is delayed into the summer. I have observed successful sprigging of bermudagrass from late January through September, but I would really have to carefully evaluate risks when sprigging after early July. Irrigation capabilities are a great equalizer and the availability of water decreases risks involved with establishing bermudagrass vegetatively.
Teff (Eragrostis tef) is a warm season annual grass species that originated in Africa. It is similar to lovegrasses and is used as predominantly as a grain crop in Ethiopia (as are the millets we use for forage in the US). A seed company recently made some selections from a core collection and has started producing a variety of teff named “Tiffany” for forage production. Limited work has been conducted on teff in the Southeastern U.S. Short term observations in Virginia indicate that teff produces a very attractive hay. Some horse owners appear to prefer this hay over bermudagrass. Researchers there have not grazed the forage, so animal performance, grazing tolerance and carrying capacity is unknown for our region. Some have claimed that this forage species is tolerant to low fertility conditions, others indicate that it will not yield as much as browntop millet but produces an easier to cure, more marketable quality hay. I have not seen any data on these variables from the Southeast and reserve any comments on them until we can examine the forage. If the comments on horse hay markets are true, this forage may provide an alternative hay crop for horse owners who refuse to feed bermudagrass hay or for hay producers looking for an annual cash hay crop. My advice at this time is to plant small acreages with caution- if at all- until much more is known about the production and marketing potential of this crop in the Southeast. We will establish small plots of teff this summer at Edisto REC and Clemson to evaluate its potential and it will be available for observation at future field days. The latest information on this and other forage species will be provided to county agents as we collect it.
The simple answer to this question is “no”. In general, clovers are highly sensitive to broadleaf herbicide applications and there is no labeled herbicide that will kill any substantial broadleaf weed and not completely eliminate crimson, red, arrowleaf, ball or subterranean clover. There are, however, almost always exceptions to rules. White clover is slightly more tolerant of 2,4-D than other clovers and normally tolerates around 1.5 pints per acre of this chemical. At this rate, there will be some curling and stunting of the clover, but white clover will normally grow out of this injury. White clover stressed from drought, pests, low fertility, or poor grazing management will likely not tolerate this treatment. Unfortunately, most of the weeds that producers are interested in killing are tough perennials like Carolina horsenettle. A low rate of 2,4-D (1.5 pts) will kill only a few of the weeds that producers want to eliminate and only when these weeds are sprayed at a young stage of growth. The most troublesome weeds like horsenettle require potent herbicides like Weedmaster or Grazon P+D that will annihilate existing clovers. An important fact to consider is that all clovers are either annuals or short-lived perennials. Producers should begin to think of legumes as rotational crops within established forage systems. Clovers fit well as a complimentary crop interseeded in a forage system until weed problems build to an unacceptable level, then weeds should be controlled with herbicides. After the field has been cleaned of weeds, reseed the clover and enjoy it for several years before repeating the cycle. As of early March, white clover seed cost was about $7-$14 per acre depending upon variety. This is approximately equal to the cost of a herbicide application for weed control. Producers rarely balk at this price to apply a herbicide- why do they hesitate to put clover back into stands and improve animal production at a similar price?