Cenchrus ciliaris L.
|Buffel grass can be
variable in habit, but all types are very drought tolerant and can withstand heavy grazing
once established. Buffel grass has a larger and deeper root system than Rhodes grass or
green panic. Swollen stem bases accumulate carbohydrates, allowing it to survive drought
and fire, and to come away very quickly after drought-breaking rains. Although it flowers
soon after rain, it can continue to shoot strongly during flowering.
Buffel grasses are sown on soils of reasonable fertility in regions with from 300-l,000 mm annual rainfall.
Buffel has a characteristic foxtail head, with seeds enclosed in fine bristles. Each cluster of bristles may contain more than one seed; Cloncurry buffel (C. pennisetiformis) has 1-4 seeds; Gayndah and Western Australia varieties 1-3, whilst tall varieties such as Biloela and Molopo usually have more single seeds.
Buffel grass is mainly summer-growing, and is less cold tolerant than green panic. It grows in soils of moderate fertility but with variable textures, prefering lighter texture but still performing well on self-mulching soils. However, it is sensitive to waterlogging, and has only moderate salt tolerance.
Buffel is not as demanding of fertility as green panic, and is well suited to the poorer types of softwood scrubs, the harder classes of country in brigalow scrubs, and the more fertile, lighter forest soils. It grows well in gidgee scrub country.
Buffel grass has low levels of sodium but a moderately high oxalate content. Horses grazing exclusively on buffel pastures can develop 'big head', associated with the oxalate content, but this can be overcome with access to other feed, and with calcium and phosphorus supplements.
Commercial paddocks of buffel grass in the southern USA and central America have been devastated by Buffel Blight. The new varieties, Bella and Viva, have shown good resistance.
Buffel varieties in commercial use may be conveniently grouped into tall, medium
height, and short varieties.
The tall varieties are most suited to heavier soils, higher rainfall, and for cattle
Biloela is the main tall variety now; it is fairly salt-tolerant.
Nunbank, Boorara, Tarewinnabar and Molopo cultivars were selected for
some superior features, but are not now sold widely. Nunbank was supposed
to establish more easy, Boorara is leafier, while Tarewinnabar has better
early spring growth and seedling vigour. Molopo is more cold tolerant,
but is shy seeding.
Medium height varieties
The medium varieties are widely adapted, more suited to lighter textured
soils, better in drier regions, and preferred for sheep production.
Two new varieties, Bella and Viva, were selected for earlier growth in spring but have a distinct value in showing good resistance to Buffel Blight in America.
Cloncurry buffel (C. pennisetiformis) is an Indian species, shorter, laxer and earlier flowering. It has lost favour in recent years, but is better adapted to lower rainfall areas.
West Australian is a favourite in dry sheep country, growing a tussock of fine dense leaves to about 75 cm. It flowers very early, producing purple seeds.
|Creator: Ian Partridge
Date created: 18 Mar 1998 Revised: 15 January 2003