CTAHR Banner
UH Manoa Logo
Sustainable Agriculture in Hawaii
Cover Crops: Non-Legumes
site map button
nav bar rule
overview button
contacts button
programs and projects button
conferences & workshops button
cover crop and green manure database button
groundcover slideshow button
related course offerings button
links button
organic farming button
search button
Sustainable Agriculture in Hawai'i info block
horizontal rule

Rhodes Grass

Chloris gayana


Click here for a downloadable, printable pdf on Rhodes Grass.

Summary
photo of Rhodes Grass
  • A sub-humid tropical and subtropical perennial grass
  • Used primarily in pastures for grazing, hay and silage
  • ‘Katambora’, ‘Bell’, and ‘Nemkat’ cultivars are nematode resistant/suppresive
  • High salt tolerance
  • Fire tolerant
  • Good drought tolerance
  • Easily established
  • Due to strict phytosanitary inspections, imported seed is not considered very available in Hawai`i (but rhodes grass can be sprigged)

Common Name
Its common name is Rhodes grass, koro-korosan (Tagalog), banuko (Ilokano) (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Scientific Name
The scientific name is Chloris gayana Kunth (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Cultivars
Of the many cultivars of Rhodes grass, ‘Katambora’ is well known for being leafy, dense growing, a good seed producer, and nematode suppressive (FAO). ‘Nemkat’ was recently released in Australia and was specifically bred for nematode resistance (Queensland Dept. of Primary Industries). ‘Bell’ is also nematode resistant (NRCS). Other Australian releases include ‘Callide’, a giant Rhodes grass, ‘Pioneer’ and ‘Samford’. African cultivars include ‘Pokot’, ‘Nzoia’, ‘Masaba’ and ‘Karpedo’ (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Seed Description
Seeds are spindle shaped and about 2 mm long (Bogdan).
 
Seedling Description
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Mature Plant Description
Rhodes grass is a stoloniferous (varies with cultivar) creeping or occasionally tufted perennial grass. Its stem is fine and leafy, with heights ranging between 0.5 and 2 meters high. The leaves are glabrous, 15-50 cm long and 3-9 mm wide (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten). The panicle has 3-20 dense, spikelike racemes 4-15 cm long. Spikelets have three to four florets (Bogdan).
 
Temperature
Rhodes grass has an optimum temperature of 35° C for photosynthesis but is tolerant of a wide temperature range (0° to 50° C). It is more tolerant of lower temperatures than other subtropical grasses (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Origin and Geographic Distribution
Rhodes grass is native to east, central, and the eastern part of west and southern Africa. It was first introduced into cultivation by Cecil Rhodes in South Africa in 1895 (Bogdan). At the beginning of the 20th century it was introduced to a wider region of Africa, the United States, Australia, Central and South America, Japan, South Asia, Italy and the southern part of the former Soviet Union. It is also grown in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Ecology
Its natural habitats are grasslands, open or with scattered trees or shrubs, along river banks, lake margins and seasonally waterlogged plains (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Water
Rhodes grass has an optimum annual rainfall between 600-1000 mm. It can withstand a dry season of up to six months. It responds well to irrigation and is moderately tolerant of flooding (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Nutrients
Rhodes grass responds well to N and P fertilization. High yields are obtained only when N is given after a basic application of P. Fertilizer N increases the proportion of leaf in the herbage, but when applied after flowering it can increase the proportion of the stem (Bogdan).
 
Soil pH
Optimum pH for Rhodes grass is between 4.5 and 7.0 (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
pH range: 5.0-8.3 (NRCS).
 
Soil Type
Rhodes grass will grow on a wide range of soils, from clays to sandy loams. It does not fare well on very heavy clays. It grows well on loose texture soils such as volcanic ash (Bogdan).
 
Shade Tolerance
Rhodes grass is not shade tolerant (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Salinity Tolerance
Rhodes grass has high salt tolerance and can accumulate large amounts of Na in the leaves without harm to the plant. It cannot tolerate MgCl2 and relatively high concentrations of Mg in the leaves can be toxic to the grass (Bogdan).
 
Herbicide Sensitivity
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Life Cycle
Seed germinates quickly (in 1-7 days) and seedlings establish rapidly. The seedlings produce erect tillers. Stolons appear later but grow and branch rapidly. If seedlings are widely scattered rhodes grass can quickly produce dense stands. Flowering occurs throughout the growing season or at the end of the season depending on the cultivar. Seeds are ripe 23-25 days after flowering (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Seeding Rate
Seeding rates of 0.5 to 1 kg/ha of pure live seed are recommended. Seed purity is usually not more than 25-35% with germination of 30-55% (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
Minimum seeding rates: 40 lbs. pure live seed/acre (NRCS).
Rhodes grass can be propagated by stolons.
 
Seeding Depth
Rhodes grass should be sown very shallow. If sown below 25 mm it will not germinate (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Seeding Method
Seed is small and should be sown very shallow or broadcast on top of of a well prepared seed-bed, covered lightly and/or rolled (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Seeding Dates
Year round in Hawai`i.
 
Inoculation
Not applicable.
 
Seed Cost
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Seed Availability
Seed is frequently imported from Australia and is subject to strict phytosanitary inspections. Rhodes grass seed is difficult to clean and shipments often do not pass inspection, therefore seed is considered not readily available in Hawai`i.
 
Days to Flowering
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Days to Maturity
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Seed Production
Seed harvesting is done either by hand with sickles, by reaper-binder, and threshing by sticks or by stationary combining. It is important to keep the seeding swards clean of weeds because Rhodes grass seed is more difficult to clean than most other tropical grasses. In the tropics, Rhodes grass often produces two crops of seed per year, with seed yields ranging from 65 to 650 kg/ha/yr (Bogdan)
 
Seed Storage
Rhodes grass germination improves in the first few months of storage, reaching its maximum 6-12 months after harvesting. It remains high for about 4 years and then declines to almost zero in the sixth or seventh year (Bogdan).
 
Growth Habit
Rhodes grass is a stoloniferous (varies with cultivar) creeping or occasionally tufted perennial grass. Its stem is fine and leafy (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Maximum Height
Rhodes grass grows to a maximum height between 0.5 and 2 meters high (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Root System
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Establishment
Rhodes grass can be established by stolons, but propagation from seed gives more rapid establishment (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
Plant sprigs or stolons at 40-80 bu/acre (3x3 ft. spacing) (NRCS).
 
Maintenance
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Mowing
Cut for hay just prior to flowering. Six harvests per year are possible (25-50 day cutting intervals) (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Incorporation
Not applicable. Not generally used as a green manure.
 
Harvesting
Grazing: Rhodes grass can be grazed continuously or rotationally from 4-6 months after sowing. Grazing should be aimed at preventing flowering since the nutritive value declines quickly as it matures.
Hay: Harvest for hay just prior to flowering. Six harvests per year are possible at 25-50 day intervals.
Seed: Harvest for seed at the early stage of seed shedding (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Equipment
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Uses
  • Used primarily in pastures for grazing, hay and silage
  • Used as a living mulch in papaya trials in Hawai`i

Mixtures
Rhodes grass grows well with a wide range of legumes: Stylosanthes guianenses, Vigna unguiculata, Medicago sativa, Macroptilium lathyroides, M. atropurpureum and Lotononis bainesii (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Biomass
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
N Contribution
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Non-N Nutrient Contribution
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Effects on Water
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Effects on Soil
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Effects on Livestock
Rhodes grass is capable of producing high liveweight gains in its first or second month of growth, but in the following months gains decrease rapidly. In general Rhodes grass produces less beef per ha than other good tropical grasses. Grass/legume mixtures give higher animal production than pure Rhodes grass (Bogdan).
 
Pest Effects, Insects
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Pest Effects, Nematodes
‘Katambora’ and ‘Nemkat’ cultivars are root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.) resistant (Bogdan) (Queensland Dept of Primary Industries).
 
Pest Effects, Diseases
‘Nzoia’ cv. can experience major damage from Helminthosporium spp. causing dieback of leaves and shoot bases. ‘Masaba’ cv. suffers from smut caused by Fusarium gramineum causing seed loss in wet years (L. ‘t Mannetje & S.M.M. Kersten).
 
Pest Effects, Weeds
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Pest Effects, Vertebrates
No information is available in this database on this topic.
 
Uses in the Pacific Region
Section to be added later.
 
Uses in Hawai`i
 
The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 Cover and Green Manure Crop includes Rhodes grass (cv. ‘Bell’ and ‘Katambora’). Their specification describes Rhodes grass as follows:

  • ‘Bell’ and ‘Katambora’ cultivars are reported to be root knot nematode resistant;
  • Minimum seeding rate of 40 lbs. pure live seed/acre;
  • pH range from 5.0-8.3;
  • Planting rate 40-80 bu/ac (sprigs or stolons, maximum 3x3 ft. spacing),
  • Medium maintenance required;
  • Poor shade tolerance;
  • Very good drought tolerance;
  • Rainfall range of 20-80 inches;
  • Rapid rate of establishment;
  • Elevation range from 0-3000 ft.
Dr. J. DeFrank, UH Manoa, has done research with Rhodes grass as a living mulch in papaya trials.

REFERENCES
Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants. Longman Inc., New York. pp.77-86.

FAO Web Site:
http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/pasture/Mainmenu.htm

‘t Mannetje, T. & Kersten, S.M.M.,1992. Chloris gayana Kunth. In: ’t Mannetje, L. & Jones, R.M. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 90-92.

Queenland Department of Primary Industries. 1997. Variety: ‘Nemkat’. Application no: 95/115. Plant – Varieties – Journal. Australia. pp. 47-49.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992.

If you have used this plant as a cover crop in the Pacific Region, please email us with COMMENTS and FEEDBACK about this plant description so we can further refine this educational resource.

horizontal rule
Last updated on 9/23/02
Contact Us linkSearch Site linkSite Map linkCTAHR News linkCTAHR Home link