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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Orchardgrass

Species: Orchardgrass

Additional orchardgrass information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Characteristics & Adaptation of Orchardgrass

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) is a perennial, cool-season, tall-growing, bunch-type grass which an open sod. It starts growth early in spring, develops rapidly and flowers during May under Pennsylvania conditions. Orchardgrass is more tolerant of shade, drought, and heat than timothy, perennial ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass but also grows well in full sunlight. Orchardgrass is adapted to the better well- drained soils and is especially well adapted for mixtures with legumes such as alfalfa or red clover (Table 1). It will generally persist longer than the other cool-season grasses in frequently cut, properly managed alfalfa mixtures.

Orchardgrass is a versatile grass and can be used for pasture, hay, green chop, or silage. A high-quality grass, it will provide excellent feed for most classes of livestock.

Adapted Orchardgrass Varieties

Several varieties of orchardgrass have been tested and were high-yielding in Pennsylvania variety trials. Potomac is an early- maturing (early May) variety, Dawn and Rancho are medium-maturing (mid-to late-May) varieties, and Pennlate is a late-maturing (late May to early June) variety. When seeding an orchardgrass- legume mixture, the two should mature at about the same time. This will enable harvesting of both species at proper developmental stages and improve the potential of harvesting top quality forage.