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Characteristics of Smooth Bromegrass
Smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis L.) is a leafy, sod-forming perennial
grass that is best suited for hay or early spring pasture. It is deep- rooted and spreads
by underground rhizomes. It matures somewhat later in the spring than orchardgrass and
makes less summer growth than orchardgrass. Forage quality of smooth bromegrass compares
well with other cool-season grasses, being affected primarily by stage of maturity.
Smooth bromegrass is the most widely used cool-season grass in North America. It is grown
extensively in Canada and the north-central United States. Smooth bromegrass survives
periods of drought and extremes in temperature. It can be grown on a variety of soil
types, but it grows best on well-drained silt-loam or clay- loam soils. It is fairly
tolerant of alkalinity and somewhat tolerant of salinity and acidity but will perform best
at a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Adapted Smooth Bromegrass Varieties
Saratoga, a variety recommended for many years in Pennsylvania, is a
vigorous, high- yielding and persistent variety which is adapted to well-drained soils.
Baylor, like Saratoga, is a high- yielding and persistent variety in Pennsylvania. These
varieties start growing earlier in the spring and stay green longer than
"common" bromegrass. Common bromegrass is not a variety but a bromegrass of
uncertain genetic makeup.
Smooth Bromegrass Establishment
A moist, firm seedbed is required for smooth bromegrass or
bromegrass-legume mixtures. Most often planted in spring, smooth bromegrass may also be
planted in late summer, when weather conditions usually are more favorable.
Seed may be either drilled or broadcast. Drilling is preferred because it provides a more
uniform depth of planting. Plant seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Long, narrow bromegrass seeds,
however, often bridge in conventional seed drills and make planting difficult. Alternate
seeding methods: 1) mixing bromegrass seed with a small amount of super phosphate and
sowing through the fertilizer attachment of the grain drill, or 2) mixing bromegrass with
a small amount of oats and sowing through the small grain attachment of your grain drill
(only for spring seeding), may help avoid this problem.
Most hopper-type fertilizer spreaders can be calibrated to broadcast smooth bromegrass
seed. If seed is broadcast, however, be sure to cover the seed. This can be done by light
disking or by following with a drag or harrow.
Smooth bromegrass seeding rate varies with seedbed condition, method of seeding, and
quality of seed. Generally, when seeding bromegrass alone rates of 12-16 lb. per acre are
sufficient. When seeding in mixtures with a legume, seeding rates of 6-8 lb. per acre of
bromegrass are recommended.
Smooth Bromegrass Harvest Management
Growth stage is the most important factor in smooth bromegrass harvest
management. Bromegrass is somewhat tolerant of light grazing during the tillering stage of
growth. During this initial flush of growth, the growing point is below the ground. Later,
shoots enter the jointing stage of growth. During this stage, the growing point may be
destroyed by mowing or close grazing.
If the growing point is destroyed at early jointing (stem elongation), regrowth will be
slow as new growth will have to come from basal buds not yet developed. When seed heads
emerge, it is time to clip pastures or to harvest the forage for hay or silage. This will
assure quality forage and quick regrowth of the new crop. Timely harvest of the spring
crop resulted in a 33% increase in total season yield over harvesting too early. Smooth
bromegrass persistence and yield are adversely affected by early harvesting of the spring
growth. However, delaying the spring harvest beyond early bloom will result in large
reductions in forage digestibility and protein content.
The aftermath crop similarly produces a growing point that is above ground approximately 5
weeks after the first harvest. If it is necessary to harvest the regrowth during the
jointing stage of development, adjust the cutter bar above the growing point (4 inches) to
assure a good third harvest. The quality of the aftermath harvests is only slightly
affected by time of harvest.
Smooth Bromegrass Fertility
Fertility needs at seeding should be determined by soil test. Soil pH
between 6.0-7.0 is best for smooth bromegrass, however it is adapted to slightly alkaline
or acid soils. In the absence of a soil test, assuming a medium-fertility soil, plow down
0-45-135 lb. per acre and apply 20- 20-20 lb. per acre at seeding (banded if possible). If
bromegrass is seeded with a legume, reduce or eliminate nitrogen application at seeding.
Smooth bromegrass is very responsive to N fertilization and requires a high level of
fertility for maximum production. If you plant smooth bromegrass with alfalfa or another
legume, restrict N applications to 40 or 50 lb. per acre to limit the effect N has on
reducing nitrogen fixation of the legume. If smooth bromegrass is grown without a legume,
apply 100 to 200 lbs N per acre in split applications of 50 lbs per acre in early spring
when the grass becomes green and 50 lbs per acre after each cutting.
Smooth Bromegrass Summary
Smooth bromegrass is a deep-rooted, sod- forming grass which grows best
on fertile, well- drained soils with pH above 6.0. It will not tolerate frequent cutting.
Spring harvest should be made before jointing or after the early-flower stage of
development to ensure maximum smooth bromegrass persistence. This restriction on
harvesting makes bromegrass unsuitable in mixture with alfalfa that will be harvested at
the bud stage. However, mixtures with legumes that will not be harvested before 1/10 bloom
are excellent. Smooth bromegrass is a good cool-season grass for Pennsylvania conditions
but proper management is essential to obtain adequate yield and persistence.
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Agriculture: Committee of the Role of Alternative Farming Methods in Modern Production
Agriculture - by National Research Council - List: $30.25 - Publication Date: September
Book News, Inc., 01/01/90:
Eleven case studies explore how alternative farming systems have been adopted--and with
what economic results--on farms of various sizes producing different crops across the
country. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
- Making Hay - by Verlyn Klinkenborg - Publication Date:
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The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt :
Mr. Klinkenborg has achieved a terse idiom that amounts almost to Middle Western rural
poetry.... what is most admirable about Making Hay is that it memorializes a way of life
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- Biodiversity and Wheat Improvement - by A.B. Damania
(Editor) - Publication Date: March 1994 - List: $165.00
The publisher, John Wiley & Sons :
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Production : Evolution, History, and Technology - by C. Wayne Smith
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species that depend on them. Discusses acidity, pH and protons--their significance in
bioenergetics and the consequent role of autotrophic organisms in acidifying ecosystems.
The Second Edition incorporates and integrates recent findings that render more
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and lakes. Also explores current research into acid rain and soil in order to devise
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by R. Naidu - Publication Date: 1995 - List: $120.00
Card catalog description
Sodic soils cover almost a third of the total land in Australia and are represented to
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Australia, or may develop as a result of the removal of salts from saline soils. Sodicity
impacts adversely on many soil properties and interferes with the proper functioning of
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soil structure, decreased retention and availability of water, decreased nutrient
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causes severe land degradation and pollution of water resources. The management of sodic
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Booknews, Inc. , 08/01/96:
Previously published as Agriculture Handbook, no. 170 (revised 1994), Soil Conservation
Service, US Department of Agriculture. This handbook is a working guide to the status of
named and experimental grasses available for use in the US. No attempt has been made to
appraise the relative merits of included varieties, nor to verify the adaptation
information provided by the preparer. Descriptions, with some exceptions are those
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method of breeding, intended use, and sources of seed and stock and further information.
Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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