Selecting Summer Annual Forage Grasses

Selecting Summer Annual Forage Grasses

May 8, 2009

If you're interested in planting summer annual grasses to boost your forage yield, select the type best adapted to your needs and intended use.

There are six types of major summer annual forage grasses:

  • sudangrass
  • sorghum-sudan hybrids
  • forage sorghum (which we often call cane or sorgo)
  • foxtail millet
  • pearl millet
  • teff

Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses so base your choice primarily on how you plan to use it.

  • For pasture use sudangrass or pearl millet. Both are leafy, regrow rapidly, and have less potential for prussic acid poisoning than other annual grasses.
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  • For hay or green chop select sorghum-sudan hybrids or pearl millet because they yield well and have good feed value when cut two or three times. On sandy soils, though, foxtail millet may be a better choice for summer hay. It dries fast, doesn't regrow after cutting, and handles dry soils well. Cane hay is grown in many areas and produces high tonnage, but it's lower in feed value and dries more slowly after cutting than the hybrids or millets. For a really soft, leafy, high quality horse hay, choose teff.
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  • For chopped silage, choose the forage sorghums, especially hybrids with high grain production. They can't be beat for tonnage or feed value.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist