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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Prairie Grass

Species: Prairie Grass

Additional prairie grass Information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Prairie Grass Establishment

Prairie grass is slower to emerge after seeding than either tall fescue or smooth bromegrass. However, prairie grass growth and development after emergence is greater than either of those grasses. A moist, firm seedbed is required for prairie grass or prairie grass-legume mixtures. Spring or summer seeding of prairie grass are recommended in Pennsylvania. However summer seedings should be completed by early August in the northern half of the state and by mid August in the lower half of the state. Later seedings are generally inadequately established to survive Pennsylvania winters.

Seed may be either drilled or broadcast. Drilling is preferred because it provides a more uniform depth of planting. Plant prairie grass seeds 1/4 inch deep. Although prairie grass seed sold in the United States has generally had the awn removed, the long fluffy seeds often bridge in conventional seed drills and make planting difficult. Using one of the alternate seeding methods listed will help reduce this problem: 1) mix prairie grass seed with a small amount of triple superphosphate and sow through the fertilizer attachment of the grain drill, or 2) mix prairie grass seed with a small amount of oats and sow through the small grain attachment of your grain drill (only for spring seeding).

Most hopper-type fertilizer spreaders can be calibrated to broadcast prairie grass seed. If seed is broadcast, however, be sure to lightly cover the seed with soil. This can be done by light disking or by following with a drag or harrow. Unlike many other cool-season grasses, prairie grass should not be cultipacked after seeding because it increases the difficulty of seedling emergence and the risk of stand failure.

Prairie grass seeding rate varies with seedbed condition, method of seeding, and quality of seed. Generally, when seeding prairie grass alone, rates of 30 to 35 lb per acre are sufficient. When seeding in mixtures with a legume, seeding rates of 20 to 30 lb per acre of prairie grass are recommended. Germination of stored seed can decline rapidly, therefore seed should be used promptly and not stored from year to year.

Weed control at the time of seeding and during prairie grass establishment is extremely important because of prairie grass's slow emergence and upright growth. The upright growth allows emerging weeds below the prairie grass to receive sufficient sunlight to continue growing. If weeds are anticipated (previous weed problem) in a field to be seeded to prairie grass, use of a preplant or preemergence herbicide is recommended. Refer to the most recent edition of the Penn State Agronomy Guide for efficacy and use restrictions of herbicides labeled for use during and after forage grass establishment.