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Guinea grass
(Panicum maximum)

Guinea grass - illustration  
  • for wet tropics and subtropics
  • clump grass
  • compatible with twining legumes
  • productive with good soils.

Guinea grass is an clump-forming perennial which grows best in warm frost-free areas receiving more than 900 mm rainfall. The deep, dense and fibrous root system allows guinea grass to survive quite long drought periods, but it performs best on well-drained soils of good fertility in high rainfall regions.

Guinea grass has withstood heavy continuous grazing with stocking rates of 2.5 beasts per ha for long periods under rainfall of 3,000 mm per year, but it performs better under rotational grazing.

Guinea grass combines well with twining legumes like centro, but the bunch habit also allows weeds to invade if the sward is mismanaged. Queensland common guinea grass is easier to manage than the very tall varieties, as it does not usually grow above about 150 cm in height.

Riversdale, a more uniform shorter line, was selected to avoid contamination with unpalatable coarse guinea. Makueni is also a medium-height variety, light green in colour. It has dense, whitish hairs on both surfaces of the leaf, and on the stem nodes, while the green flowering heads have a purplish tinge. Makueni has better cool-season growth than Coloniao and Hamil grass in the coastal lowlands of north Queensland.

Green panic is another medium-height variety with green leaves and smooth stem nodes. Gatton panic persists productively for many years in subtropical areas with 750-l,250 mm annual rainfall. It establishes more reliably than green panic, with good first season yields, and causes fewer management problems than the tall varieties.

Hamil grass is a very tall variety, robust, smoother and growing to 3.0-3.5 m. The leaves are darker green than in Riversdale or Makueni, the stem nodes hairless, but the basal leaf sheaths bear stiff hairs. It grows on more poorly drained soils than other guinea grasses, and seeds more freely. It is well accepted by cattle, and its tall growth makes it attractive in tropical countries where most fodder is cut rather than grazed.

Coloniao guinea is sown in districts with a minimum rainfall of 900 mm. It is a very tall variety, growing to 3 m, practically hairless, and has thick, fleshy stems. The foliage is blue-green, but the leaf blades are smooth and almost free of hair. It flowers later than other guinea grass varieties and has a slightly longer growing season. Coloniao is very palatable and cattle will graze it right down to the butts.

Creator: Ian Partridge,
Date created: 14 April 1998  Revised:15 January 2003

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