How to manage BROMEGRASS for higher pasture yields

  • Learn the growth phases of bromegrass
  • Recognize the "critical periods"
  • Set up definite harvest-and-rest cycles

Every time you turn cows into a new pasture you wonder about the regrowth. If grasses and legumes don't make a good recovery, you're headed for a midsummer pasture slump. Farmers who follow rotation grazing, and those who feed chopped green forage daily to their livestock haven't escaped the problem.

Here is a method of handling bromegrass which has more than doubled pasture yields. It works because it is based upon the growth phases of the grass. Here is what takes place:

Bromegrass stools or tillers in early spring, just like wheat. The active growing parts of the plant are underground. Grazing is possible here.

The central stems next start to "joint". The seed head, with all the leaf bases and stem sections wrapped around it, starts to grow out of the stem. This growing part must be protected. If it is cut or grazed off, the grass must start new shoots from the roots, but roots have low food supplies. Rest the pasture. Graze light in emergency.

The grass grows on into the boot stage and seed heads start to emerge. Plants store food reserves in roots and start new shoots. Regrowth is assured. Harvest the grass.

Normally the seed heads shed pollen and then new shoots start to grow. Clip or graze before seed head develops, and release new regrowth before hot weather.

Regrowth will joint again. Rest and protect pasture again. No seed heads develop, so watch for new shoots on the roots. When they begin to show, the food reserves a re again built up for more regrowth, take another harvest.

In late summer and early fall this cycle is again repeated. The key to regrowth lies in food reserves which build up in the roots. Much poor pasture production has been blamed on drought, but grass has actually been dormant because food reserves were exhausted. Resting pastures after each harvest assures a build-up of these important food reserves.

Bromegrass stools or tillers in spring when it breaks dormancy. Growth is vigorous if the grass was fertilized and rested 30 days in previous fall.youcan take a "bonus harvest" now with some early spring grazing. At this stage grazing will not hurt the pasture.The active growing tissues of bromegrass plants are located beneath soil surface.

Jointing is second stage of growth. It's a very critical period. Brome grows by "untelescoping" one stem section and its leaf at a time. Keep checking stems (red circle) with your knife to find "untelescoped" plant inside. Enlarged drawing above shows stem sections and seed head you find in jointing. Stop grazing, or graze "high" when you find it. Protect grass for at least two weeks. Plants must grow and "untelescope".

Brome in "boot" stage is now ready to harvest. Seed heads about to emerge are cue to pasture heavy, or chop for grass silage. Now is the time to get the greatest yield of highest quality forage. Roots are well supplied with food reserves for regrowth; complete the harvest as soon as they emerge.

Regrowth from new shoots will follow hard grazing or grass-silage cutting. Here's another good time to topdress the pasture; consider a complete fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. Rest the pasture for 3 weeks. The regrowth will start to joint, and again enter a critical growth period. Keep checking with your knife.

Jointing in regrowth is similar to that occurring in the spring. The vital growing region holds undeveloped internodes and leaf bases; a tiny growing point replaces the seed head (enlarged drawing). In an emergency you can graze pasture, but graze "high", so that cattle do not destroy the growing portion of the grass plant. Until the plants "untelescope", there will be no food stored in the roots for new regrowth.

Second harvest in midsummer is ready when you find new shoots appearing on the roots. In a vigourous pasture, these new rhizomes will be above soil surface. Summer dormancy has been eliminated, providing moisture and soil fertility have not been limiting. Graze heavily or cut for hay. Timothy will have same growth cycles, but about 3 weeks later than brome.

Second regrowth from new shoots follows harvest. Give pasture 3-week rest. Bromegrass now repeats the growth cycle of early summer. By setting up several pastures on different schedules, you can always have grass ready to harvest while other pastures are being rested.

Late summer grazing should be "high" to protect the crucial growing region during jointing. It will probably take 21 to 40 days to complete jointing at this season because the hours of daylight are shorter. When all leaves are extended, food reserves again build up in root system, new rhizomes appear. When you find these, take an early fall crop.

Give pasture a 30-day rest before freeze-up in fall. Make a liberal application of fertilizer before the fall flush of growth. Feeding will produce a big growth of grass, and help build up food reserves. A heavy groundcover will help reduce heaving and winter injury to the legumes in the grass mixture.