Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
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|Common Name||Switchgrass, tall panic grass, Wobsqua grass, blackbent, tall prairiegrass, wild redtop, thatchgrass, and Virginia switchgrass.|
|Latin Name||Panicum virgatum|
|Image credit Margaret Broeren|
Switchgrass is one of the dominant species of the central North American tallgrass prairie and can be found in remnant prairies, in native grass pastures, and naturalized along roadsides. It has an advantage in conditions of drought and high temperature.
Switchgrass is a hardy, deep-rooted, perennial rhizomatous grass that begins growth in late spring. It can grow up to 2.7 m high. Switchgrass has a deep fibrous root system – nearly as deep as the plant is tall. When ripe, the seeds sometimes take on a pink or dull-purple tinge, and turn golden brown with the foliage of the plant in the fall.
Very Common. Wild growth.
Switchgrass is both a perennial and self-seeding crop, which means farmers do not have to plant and reseed after annual harvesting. Once established, a switchgrass stand can survive for ten years or longer. Unlike corn, switchgrass can grow on marginal lands and doesn't require lots of fertilizer. Overall, it is considered a resource-efficient, low-input crop.
Many marginal soils may benefit from increased levels of organic material, permeability, and fertility, due to the grass's deep root system. When harvesting switchgrass for hay, the first cutting occurs at the late boot stage – around mid-June. This should allow for a second cutting in mid-August, leaving enough regrowth to survive the winter.
It can be used by cattle farmers for hay and pasture and as a substitute for wheat straw in many applications, including livestock bedding, straw bale housing. Switchgrass becomes stemmy and unpalatable as it matures, but during the target grazing period, it is a favorable forage.
Switchgrass is an excellent forage for cattle; however, it has shown low toxicity in horses, sheep, and goats (not much is known about this toxicity and it is very unlikely Luperci are aware of it).
It has been used as a substrate for growing mushrooms.
Due to its height, switchgrass can form an effective wind erosion barrier. Its root system, also, is excellent for holding soil in place, which helps prevent erosion from flooding and runoff.
- Salsola harvests and dries switchgrass for their horses and other livestock. They have it available for trade.