- Palatable when young and leafy.
- Drought tolerant.
- Tolerant of heavy grazing.
- Needs only moderately fertile soil.
- Effective ground cover to combat erosion.
- Not adapted to acid, infertile soils.
- Slow regrowth after dry/cool season.
- Flowers late in autumn so seed-set may be interrupted by early frost.
- Can invade and compete with native pastures.
Stems: Runner stems (stolons) are waxy and reddish pink to mauve in colour, and 1.5 - 2.5 mm diameter. Seed stems are finer and yellow in colour, with a ring of spreading white hairs at the nodes.
Leaves: Leaves have a powdery, waxy coating, and are grey-green in colour, mostly hairless to 30cm long and 8mm wide.
Seedhead: Similar to that of forest bluegrass, olive green to purplish in colour, with 3 to >20 branches (racemes) 4 - 9 cm long along a short central axis.
Seeds: 650,000 to 1.2 million seeds/kg.
Pasture type and use
Used as permanent pasture on better quality forest soils and scrub soils in low to moderate rainfall areas, mostly for beef production. Surplus growth makes excellent hay provided it is leafy and succulent when cut.
Where it grows
Creeping bluegrass is very drought tolerant, although it can be killed by prolonged dry conditions. While it may be successful in areas with average annual rainfall as low as 550mm, it is usually sown in areas receiving 700 - 1200 mm/yr.
It is adapted to well-structured, well-drained, red and black clays, loams and clay loams, of at least moderate fertility, but is not suited to sands or to very heavy black clays. While it is one of the few introduced warm season grasses that will grow on black self-mulching clays, establishment is difficult. It does not tolerate waterlogging.
Tops are burnt by frost, although stands recover from crowns along the stolons.
Grasses: rhodes grass
Companion species (grasses or legumes) may be difficult to maintain in creeping bluegrass, since it can survive at fairly low soil nitrogen levels, and forms a dense cover that prevents re-establishment of associated species.
Sowing/planting rates as single species
2 - 3 kg/ha. It is a light and fluffy seed that does not flow readily and may require special sowing equipment or pelleting to improve flow. The small seed should be sown no deeper than 1cm.
Sowing/planting rates in mixtures
1 - 2 kg/ha
Creeping bluegrass may be planted from October to late February, providing there is a good chance of follow-up rain to germinating moisture.
It is tolerant of low soil nitrogen levels, competing well with native grasses in forest country, where other improved pasture grasses may fail. It responds to added nitrogen, but it is usually uneconomic to apply nitrogen fertiliser to large areas of dryland pasture. Renovation of mature pasture that is showing signs of decline will release nitrogen to rejuvenate the stand for a period.
Young stands should not be grazed until follow-up rainfall stimulates strong root systems in developing seedlings. Initially grazing should be light to encourage runners to develop and spread, but then adjusted to prevent the grass getting tall and rank. Trampling by stock encourages the runners to take root.
Without nitrogen, seed yields may be as low as 20 kg/ha, but normally range from 100 - 150 kg/ha, and up to 200 kg/ha under ideal conditions. As with most grasses, an application of 100 kg/ha N following a clearing cut about 2 months before flowering helps to ensure a high density of well-filled heads. Crops can be direct headed or brush harvested. Harvest timing is important as the seed can fall very quickly when ripe. Both cultivars flower late in the season, and low temperatures may delay seed ripening, leading to the possibility that frosts may destroy immature seed crops.
Ability to spread
Creeping bluegrass can spread in undisturbed situations, because of its adaptation to low fertility soils and heavy grazing. It also spreads by runners (stolons) and seed, with the fluffy seeds sticking to livestock or blown by the wind.
It has the potential to replace native grasses on some better forest soils.
Other than the possibility of nematodes in lighter soils, creeping bluegrass does not seem subject to pest attack.
While disease problems are rare, the cultivar 'Hatch' can suffer from leaf rust in more humid environments.
It is killed by glyphosate, but is tolerant of atrazine.
Quality declines with age, and more rapidly with the onset of flowering. Crude protein levels in young leaf may be of the order of 10%, declining to about 5% in mature growth at the end of the season
It is readily eaten by stock in the leafy stage, and can tolerate heavy grazing. The strongly scented herbage does not taint milk or meat. 'Bisset' is more readily eaten than 'Hatch'.
Annual pasture yields of about 10 t/ha of dry matter (DM) are achievable, and 15 - 20 t/ha DM in seed crops, where nitrogen fertiliser and possibly irrigation are used. Cattle can gain an average of 0.5 kg/hd/day, with a peak of 1.25 kg/day in early autumn, and a low of -0.4 kg/day in winter.
It is low in oxalate, so will not cause big head in horses. No other problems have been recorded.
|Bisset||Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars|
|Hatch||Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars|
Denotes that this variety is protected by Plant Breeder's Rights Australia
Brian Johnson, DPI&F, Plant Science, Toowoomba, Queensland
Author and date
Bruce G. Cook