Stargrass
Cynodon nlemfuensis

Stargrass CTAHR Fact Sheet (downloadable .pdf)

Summary


Common Name

Its common name is Stargrass, African Stargrass, kolatay (Tagalog), galud-galud (Ilokano) (Hanna).

Scientific Name

The scientific name is Cynodon nlemfuensis Vanderyst (Bogdan).

Cynodon nlemfuensis is a variable species and two varieties have been recognized: Var. nlemfuensis and Var. robustus (Hanna).

Cultivars

There are several cultivars of Stargrass reported by Hanna: 'Florico', 'Florona', 'Ona', and 'Costa Rica'. 'Florico' is recommended by NRCS in Hawai`i.

Seed Description

Seeds are ellipsoid, laterally compressed (Hanna).

Seedling Description

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Mature Plant Description

Stargrass is a stoloniferous perennial without rhizomes. The stolons are woody and lie flat on the ground surface. Stems are 30-60 cm high and 1-3 mm at the base. The leaf blade is flat, linear-lanceolate, 5-16 cm long and 2-5 mm wide (Hanna). One inflorescence has a single whorl of 4 to 9 spikes that are 4-7 cm long each (Bogdan).

Small forms of C. nlemfuensis can be mistaken for C. dactylon (C. nlemfuensis having no underground rhizomes and being less hardy) (Hanna).

Temperature

Stargrass is a tropical to subtropical species. It is limited to areas where temperatures do not fall below -4°C (Hanna).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Stargrass originates in East and Central Africa, from Ethiopia and Sudan through Zaire to Malawi and Angola. It has been introduced to other parts of the tropics as a fodder grass (Hanna).

Ecology

Stargrass occurs from sea level to 2,300 meters altitude, in grasslands, bush and forest clearings, and as a pioneer grass on disturbed land (old cultivations, cattle paddocks, denuded areas, roadsides). In tropical East Africa, Stargrass is common on light textured soil at the bottom of the Rift Valley (Bogdan).

Water

Stargrass requires 20-80 inches of annual rainfall (NRCS). It does not tolerate flooding for long periods (Hanna).

Nutrients

Fertilization greatly increases DM yields for Stargrass. A minimum of 10 kg/ha of N per month of growth is required for moderate to high productivity and stargrass will respond to higher rates (Hanna).

Soil pH

Stargrass 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

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

Shade Tolerance

Stargrass has poor shade tolerance (NRCS).

Salinity Tolerance

No information is available in this database on this topic.

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

Stargrass is propagated vegetatively (Hanna).

Seeding Depth

Not applicable.

Seeding Method

Not applicable.

Seeding Dates

Not applicable.

Inoculation

Not applicable.

Seed Cost

Not applicable.

Seed Availability

Not 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

Stargrass is usually propagated vegetatively. A small nursery for planting larger areas can easily be established from a few vegetative sprigs or stolons (Hanna).

Seed Storage

Not applicable.

Growth Habit

Stargrass grows vigorously and roots at the nodes as it spreads. Some genotypes have a bunch-habit type of growth even though they spread by stolons (Hanna).

Maximum Height

Stargrass grows to a maximum height of about 60 cm high (Hanna).

Root System

Stargrass is deep rooted (FAO).

Establishment

Maintenance

Maintain adequate fertilization and thatch removal to prevent insect pests (Hanna).

Mowing

Incorporation

Not applicable. Not generally used as a green manure.

Harvesting

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Equipment

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses

Mixtures

Stargrass can be grown with low growing legumes (generally to improve forage quality). Good stargrass/legume mixtures are reported with Stylosanthes guianensis, Centrosema pubescens, Trifolium repens (cv. 'Louisiana'), and Lotonis bainesii (Bogdan). Applications of lime are suggested to bring pH to 5.5 (Hanna).

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

Crude protein content of Stargrass herbage can reach over 20% of the dry matter and is seldom below 8% (Bogdan). Stargrass contains high levels of prussic acid (Hanna). Harmful effects (goitrous and skeletal abnormalities, reduced birth rate) on lambs born by ewes grazed on C. nlemfuensis have been reported (Bogdan). Hanna cites few livestock deaths from prussic acid poisoning reported.

Pest Effects, Insects

Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and spittlebug (Prosapia bicinata) are the major insects that attack Stargrass. (Hanna). To help control pests, provide adequate fertilization and defoliation that allows less than 15-cm growth (thatch) to accumulate (Hanna).

Pest Effects, Nematodes

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Pest Effects, Diseases

The major diseases of common Stargrass are rust and Helminthosporium leaf-spot (Hanna).

Pest Effects, Weeds

Once established, provides good weed suppression (NRCS).

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, Section IV, Code 340 Cover and Green Manure Crop includes Stargrass (cv 'Florico'). Their specification describes Stargrass as follows

Giant Star grass, Cynodon plectostachyus cv. 'South Point' is included in this recommendation with the same descriptive criteria.


References

Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants. Longman Inc., New York. pp. 98-103.

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.

Hanna, W.W., 1992. Cynodon nlemfuensis Vanderyst. In: 't Mannetje, L. & Jones, R.M. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 102-104.

FAO Grassland Index Web Site

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

Text last updated on 9/23/02

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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).