by Brent Scott, Portfolio Manager - Tropicals & Summer Crop 26/10/2018
Rhodes grass is a popular choice for Australian tropical and sub-tropical improved pastures, being widely adopted all over the country.
Many producers would be familiar with the still popularly grown older common varieties such as Katambora and Callide, but cattle and hay producers not planting newer varieties of Rhodes grass are missing out on major production and productivity gains for their farming enterprises. Years and years of uncontrolled seed multiplication has resulted in the older common varieties falling behind newer improved cultivars with controlled production for feed quality. Rhodes grass is a morphologically variable out-crossing species and these older varieties in the market place have been grown on and on, resulting in the current common varieties having greater variations in flowering and greater varietal diversity within a type. The result is the sporadic production of seed heads all year round and the quality of the pasture potentially being compromised, with the older traditional varieties tending to become stalky and less palatable at times.
Newer varieties of Rhodes grass are multiplied professionally to maintain varietal trueness to type and producers can be confident that the quality of pasture produced from newer varieties is worth the extra investment. Newer varieties are later flowering, resulting in plants that tend not to go to head so quickly and this later, more even and consistent maturity results in producers that know about these new varieties, swinging away from the older varieties to these better forage and hay varieties.
Heritage Seeds’ range of new and improved synthetic Rhodes grass varieties are later maturing, have higher leaf to stem ratios, are leafier and remain leafier for longer, resulting in increased dry matter production, higher protein content and less fibre. These traits provide greater feed quality and palatability for livestock. Anecdotally, these varieties tend to be preferred by cattle because of their leafiness and fewer seed heads in pasture when compared to the older common varieties.
Heritage Seeds now has two dedicated tropical grass breeders and an extensive Rhodes grass breeding program that continues to produce new opportunities for producers, with more exciting cultivar releases on the way in the near future.
Tolgar Rhodes® Grass
Tolgar Rhodes®, a diploid Rhodes grass, is a new Katambora type. Bred in Australia, this perennial variety was specifically selected for superior growth characteristics including increased production, persistence, greater forage quality, aggressive growth habit and higher salt tolerance over commercial Katambora varieties. Leaf blades are thin, resulting in fine textured vegetative growth. The multiple tillering characteristics of Tolgar Rhodes® produces a high leaf to stem ratio, which provides more consumable dry matter than other Katambora Rhodes grass varieties. Maturity evenness of this variety provides higher protein feed late in the season. Tolgar Rhodes® demonstrates exceptional recovery after grazing or cutting. Later flowering than other Katambora Rhodes grass types provides Tolgar Rhodes® the ability to maintain feed quality longer and out yield similar varieties in the market place.
Mariner Rhodes Grass
Mariner, a tetraploid Rhodes grass, is a new Samford type. Bred in Australia, this perennial variety was specifically selected for superior growth characteristics including increased production, persistence and greater forage quality over commercial Samford and Callide varieties. Leaf blades are large, with multiple tillering characteristics producing a high leaf to stem ratio. Palatability of this variety remains high, even when mature. The multiple tillering characteristics of Mariner produces a high leaf to stem ratio, which provides more consumable dry matter than other tetraploid Rhodes grass varieties. Maturity evenness of this variety provides higher protein feed late in the season. Mariner demonstrates exceptional recovery after grazing or cutting. Later flowering than other Samford or Callide Rhodes grass types provides Mariner the ability to maintain feed quality longer and out yield similar varieties in the market place.