Do you have Johnsongrass in your pasture or hayfield? Do you know the difference between Johnsongrass and other tall perennial grass species in your fields like Vasey grass?
Johnsongrass may cause nitrate poisoning, prussic acid poisoning, and interstitial cystitis like other sorghum varieties under certain favorable conditions to livestock species. Sorghum forages under the stress of rapid growth, drought, or freshly frosted plants in the fall can generate cyanogenic glycosides. These can lead to issues for our livestock if not monitored.
Vasey grass (Paspalum urvillei Steud) is another tall perennial grass species that grows in clumps around East Texas as well. Vasey grass was introduced into the United States from South America as a forage species. Vasey grass can also grow from 3 feet to 6 feet tall in height. The leaves are densely haired at the stem. The seed head is long with 12 to 25 spikelets resembling that of Dallisgrass. The seed heads also appear fuzzy with short hairs and the seeds are a rust color when mature. Vasey grass too has a white mid vein down the leaves.
Vasey grass can be found in pastures and hayfields, in areas for erosion control, and for wildlife habitat. For wildlife, this plant primarily provides cover though some birds and small mammals may use the seeds. One difference in Vasey grass is the seed heads tend to lay over some like Dallisgrass as opposed to Johnsongrass seed heads staying upright on the end of the stem.
Both of these grass species can be used as a forage species and for hay in East Texas. In a hay field, these two grass species may take a little longer to cure or become dry enough to bale. Since Johnsongrass spreads by seed as well vegetatively, control will be harder. If you suspect any issues with these grass species in your hay, laboratories that test the quality of the hay or forage species can determine nutritive as well as any toxicity values of the forage species.
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