Saturday, March 8, 2008

Buffalograss - Not Well Adapted to Delaware

I was recently asked about buffalograss as a low maintenance turfgrass for Delaware. This is a Great Plains native warm season grass species that is being used in states such as Kansas for lawns. However, native buffalograss is not found in Delaware and therefore may not be adapted to the Delaware climate. In states where it is adapted it makes a very nice lawn that needs little or no mowing and has low water needs. New varieties are being released each year and we do not know if they will be better adapted than the common species for our eastern conditions. The following is some information on this grass.

Buffalograss, Buchloe dactyloides, is a perennial grass native to the Great Plains from Montana to Mexico. Buffalograss is, perhaps, our only truly native turfgrass. Its tolerance to prolonged droughts and to extreme temperatures together with its seed producing characteristics enables buffalograss to survive extreme environmental conditions. That being said, it favors heavy clay soils in moderate to low rainfall areas and suprisingly does not do well in sandy soils, even though it is drought tolerant. It also does not do well in higher rainfall or humid areas. When buffalograss is planted in these higher rainfall areas or when it is irrigated and fertilized, bermudagrass and other weedy grasses can invade a stand of buffalograss. Buffalograss is best adapted to low rainfall areas (15 to 30 inches annually) commonly found in the Great Plains of the US. Being a warm season grass, it will green up late in the spring and go dormant in the winter. This means you will have that brown look for an extended period of time.

In my opinion, until we have research information that shows that buffalograss can persist in Mid-Atlantic conditions, a better choice would be the turf-type bermudagrasses if a warm season grass is desired.

Information take from multiple extension sources (largely from Texas A&M) and compiled by Gordon Johnson, Extension Horticulture Agent, UD, Kent County.

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