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(Setaria sphacelata)

Setaria - illustration  
  • tufted grass
  • for medium rainfall subtropics
  • cold tolerant varieties
  • combines with twining legumes
  • tolerant of temporary waterlogging.

Setaria sphacelata (schuniach.) Stapf & Hubbard ex M.B. Moss -
1 habit; 2 ligule; 3 inflorescence; 4 bristles; 5 spikelet.

The setarias are amongst the most cold-tolerant of the tropical grasses, and are commonly grown in higher rainfall coastal districts of the subtropics. They are well accepted by cattle, but have a rather low sodium content, and high oxalate content, especially if fertilised with nitrogen.

The setarias are tufted, with flattened, and often red coloured leaf bases, and can grow to a height of over 2 m. They require reasonable fertility, but are fairly tolerant of short-termed waterlogged conditions. The flowering heads are spike-like, and generally have good seed production.

There are a number of commercial cultivars, including Nandi, Kazungula, Narok, Solander, and Splenda.

Nandi and Kazungula are vigorous summer-growers, but have superior cold tolerance to paspalum and other pasture grasses of coastal areas, giving them a long growing season.

Nandi is finer leaved and less vigorous than Kazungula, but Kazungula produces higher yields of seed, and can tolerate some moisture stress in deep soils of moderate fertility. They are not very frost-tolerant, but stay green and succulent well into the winter and come away early in the spring.

Nandi has formed stable mixtures with a wide range of legumes, including glycine, siratro, greenleaf and silverleaf desmodium, jointvetches, lotononis and white clover, and can withstand heavy stocking without weed invasion.

The more vigorous Kazungula is less compatable with legumes. Kazungula is flowers later than Nandi, has broader leaves and thicker stems. Seed quality is usually better, and establishment is more reliable.

Narok and Solander have better cool season performance, and have more even seasonal production, producing less in summer but more in winter. Light frosts at temperatures down to -3 degC cause little leaf damage, but severe frosts will kill leaf.

Solander was selected later because seed production of Narok was not reliable.

The species S. splendida is better adapted to the humid lowland tropics, but has to be planted from cuttings as it produces sterile seeds. Cv. Splenda is a seeding hybrid for the humid tropics.

Creator: Ian Partridge
Date created: 07 April 1998  Revised:15 January 2003

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