Bermuda Grass
Cynodon dactylon

Also known as manienie in Hawai`i

Summary


Common Name

Its common name is Bermuda grass, couch grass (Bogdan), green couch (Hana), kabuta (Fiji) (FAO). In Hawai`i it is called manienie (Deputy).

Scientific Name

The scientific name is Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. (Bogdan). Cynodon dactylon is a variable species and six varieties have been recognized (Hanna). The most notable is var. dactylon which is distributed worldwide and in some areas is considered a noxious weed. Var. aridus, var. elegans, and var. coursii are of regional importance (Bogdan).

Cultivars

There are many cultivars of C. dactylon var. dactylon, many of which are sterile hybrids. ‘Common Bermuda Grass’ is the common weed, but is excellent for erosion control and winter feed (originating in the Near East).

Cultivars released for pasture uses include: ‘Coastal’, ‘Coastcross-1’, ‘Tifton 78’, ‘Tifton 68’, ‘Hardie’, ‘Oklan’ and ‘Brazos’ (Hanna).

‘NK37" is root knot nematode resistant (NRCS).

Some cultivars commonly used for lawns in Hawai`i include: ‘Sunturf’, ‘Tifway’, ‘Tifway II’ (denser and more resistant to sting and root-knot nematodes), ‘Tifgreen’, ‘Tifgreen 328’, ‘Tifdwarf’ (putting greens), ‘FloraDwarf’ (putting greens), ‘GN-1’, ‘MS-Choice’, ‘MS-Express’, ‘MS-Pride’, ‘NuMex Sahara’, ‘Sultan’, ‘Yuma’, ‘Blue-muda’ (Deputy).

Seed Description

Seeds are ovoid, about 1.5 mm (1/16 inch) long, and yellow to reddish (Hanna).

Seedling Description

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Mature Plant Description

Bermuda grass is a prostrate stoloniferous perennial herb with rhizomes which extend into the ground to a depth of 1 meter (39 in.) or more (Hanna). The stems are up to 60 cm (24 in.) tall. Its leaves are flat or folded, 3-12 cm long by 2-4 mm wide. Spikes are 1.5-8 cm long, three to six in a whorl (Bogdan).

Temperature

Bermuda grass is a tropical and subtropical species. It grows best where mean daily temperatures are above 24° C (75°F). Temperatures of -2 to -3°C (28.4 - 26°F) usually kill leaves and stems but rhizomes survive and regrow in the spring (Hanna).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Cynodon dactylon var. dactylon is believed to originate in Turkey and Pakistan (Bogdan). It has been introduced to all tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Hanna). Var. aridus is found in S India to SW Africa, var. elegans is found in S. Africa, and var. coursii is found in Madagascar (Bogdan).

Ecology

The optimal temperature for Bermuda grass is 24°C (75°F) (mean). It is deep rooted, drought tolerant, tolerates a wide pH range, and tolerates low fertility soil. It is shade intolerant (Hanna).

Water

‘Coastal’ Bermuda grass requires over 500 mm (about 20 in.) of annual rainfall for reasonable yields. It can be dormant for as long as 6-7 months (Bogdan). Bermuda grass will tolerate long periods of flooding (Hanna). The FAO reports Bermuda grass growing at rainfalls ranging from 625-1750 mm (about 25-69 inches).

Nutrients

Bermuda grass can tolerate low fertility, but fertilization will greatly increase yields especially for hybrid varieties. A minimum of 10 kg/ha (8.9 lb/ac) of N per month of growth is required for moderate to high productivity. Some of the improved hybrids will respond to rates as high as 60 kg/ha (53.5 lb/ac)  N per month of growth (Hanna).

Soil pH

Bermuda grass tolerates a broad pH range, but grows best when the pH is above 5.5 (Hanna). pH range: 5.0-8.0 (NRCS)

Soil Type

Bermuda grass will grow on a wide range of soils, and grows best in well-drained soils (Hanna).

Shade Tolerance

Bermuda grass is not shade tolerant and yields will decrease in shaded conditions (Bogdan).

Salinity Tolerance

Bermuda grass can tolerate salinity in irrigation water (Bogdan).

Herbicide Sensitivity

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Life Cycle

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seeding Rate

Plant 5-10 kg/ha hulled seed. Use higher rates for rapid sward development (Hanna).

Minimum rate: 35 lbs. pure live seed/acre (NRCS).

Seeding Depth

1/4-1/2 inch deep (Deputy).

Seeding Method

Broadcast and rake/roll (Deputy)

Seeding Dates

Year round in Hawai`i.

Inoculation

Not applicable.

Seed Cost

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Availability

Readily available.

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

According to the FAO, two seed harvests of ‘Coastal Bermuda’ are made in the USA – in July and November. It is mowed into windrows, picked up, threshed by combines and cleared.

Seed Storage

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Growth Habit

Bermuda grass is a stoloniferous perennial, creeping by means of rhizomes and stolons (FAO).

Maximum Height

Bermuda grass grows to a maximum height of about 60 cm (24 in.) high (Bogdan).

Root System

Bermuda grass is deep rooted and its rhizomes penetrate the soil to a depth of 1 meter (39 in.) or more (Hanna).

Establishment

Bermuda grass is frequently established by sprigs or stolons. Sprig/stolon planting rate: 40-80 bu/ac at a maximum 3 ft. by 3 ft. spacing (NRCS). Plant into moist soil and roll (Hanna).

Maintenance

Graze closely to keep feeding value high. Fertilize with nitrogen. Renovate with plowing or disking when sod-bound (FAO). For information about Bermuda grass lawn maintenance, refer to Deputy. Thatch buildup should be removed when it is greater than 3/4 in thick. Periodic topdressing with compost promotes thatch decomposition (Deputy).

Mowing

Incorporation

Not applicable. Not generally used as a green manure.

Harvesting

Bermuda should be cut for hay or silage when it is 30-40 cm tall (Hanna).

Equipment

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses

Mixtures

Bermuda grass hybrids are frequently grown with pasture legumes producing higher yields than pure grass alone without N. The herbage contains more protein, has a higher feeding value and can be more palatable. Bermuda grass is commonly grown with: Trifolium incarnatum L., Vicia villosa Roth., Trifolium repens, and Arachis glabrata (Bogdan).

Biomass

No information is available in this database on this topic.

N Contribution

Nitrogen concentrations of 2-3% have been reported on well-fertilized Bermuda grass (0.5-1.5% on inadequately fertilized grass). (Hanna).

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

Bermuda grass roots have been reported to have an adverse effect on clover seed germination (Bogdan).

Effects on Livestock

Adequately fertilized Bermuda grass has N concentration between 2-3% (Hanna). Liveweight gain of cattle grazed on ‘Coastal’ Bermuda range from 200-300 kg/ha/yr when moderate rates of N and other fertilizers are applied (Bogdan).

Pest Effects, Insects

Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and spittlebug (Prosapia bicinata) are the major insects that attack Bermuda grass (Hanna). Deputy reports that in Hawai`i bermuda grass for lawn use is susceptible to webworm, lawn armyworm, bermudagrass mite, and nematodes. Certain cultivars are more resistant. To help control pests, provide adequate fertilization and defoliation that allows less than 8-cm growth (thatch) to accumulate (Hanna).

Pest Effects, Nematodes

Bermuda grass cultivar ‘NK-37’ is root-knot resistant (NRCS).

Pest Effects, Diseases

Rust and Helminthosporium leaf-spot are the major diseases of common Bermuda grass. The improved hybrids are resistant (Hanna).

Pest Effects, Weeds

Once established, provides good weed suppression (FAO).

Pest Effects, Vertebrates

No information is available in this database on this topic.


Uses in the Pacific Region

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses in Hawai`i

The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide, includes Bermuda grass (cv. ‘NK-37’ and common). Their specification describes Bermuda grass as follows:

Dole Foods reports using Bermuda grass successfully with orchards as a filter strip on O`ahu (personal communication, Mike McLean).


References

Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants. Longman Inc., New York. pp. 92-98.

Deputy, J., Hensley, D., Tavares, J., 1998. Bermudagrass TM-5. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. 4 pp.

Evans, Dale O., Joy, Robert J., & Chia, C.L., 1988. Cover Crops for Orchards in Hawaii. Hawaii Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, United Stated. 16 pp.

FAO Grassland Index Web Site

Hanna, W.W., 1992. Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. In: ’t Mannetje, L. & Jones, R.M. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 100-102.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992. Pacific Islands Area Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) - East Area

Information Last updated on 7/5/02

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality" EW98-012 (1998-2002).