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Signal grass
(Brachiaria decumbens)

Signal grass - illustration  
  • trailing perennial
  • tolerates heavy grazing
  • for wide range of soils, but not waterlogging
  • difficult to combine with legumes
  • very responsive to good fertility.

Brachiaria decumbens Stapf -
1 Habit leafy stems; 2 inflorescence.

Signal grass (cv. Basilisk) is a low-growing decumbent perennial, with trailing stems that root at the nodes. It forms a dense soil cover, with a canopy usually under 40 cm when grazed.

Signal grass is well adapted to a wide range of soils in the humid and sub-humid (down to 1000 mm annual rainfall) tropics, but also grows well in the coastal subtropics showing some tolerance of drought and cold. However, it cannot tolerate waterlogging for more than a short time, and Brachiaria humidicola is more suitable under these conditions.

The dense cover of signal grass gives relatively weed-free pastures, but also prevents good compatability with twining or erect legumes. The most compatible legumes are the creeping hetero (Desmodium heterophyllum), which has to be planted with cuttings, and the forage peanuts (Arachis pintoi).

Intensive grazing gives the best performance with high animal output as old leaf is not allowed to accumulate. Cool season pasture production can be increased by applying 100 kg/ha nitrogen at the end of autumn.

Freshly harvested seed is dormant and should not be planted in that season. The large seed of signal grass establishes more easily than other small-seeded tropical pastures, and may allow rougher seed-beds.

Signal grass seedlings are tolerant to a pre-emergence application of atrazine.

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

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