Cenchrus ciliaris


Scientific name

Synonyms

Cenchrus glaucus C. R. Mudaliar & Sundararaj
Pennisetum cenchroides Rich., nom. illeg.
Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link

Family/tribe

Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Panicoideae tribe: Paniceae.

Common names

buffel grass, buffelgrass, foxtail buffalo grass, blue buffalo grass, african foxtail grass (English);  bloubuffelgras (South Africa);  cenchrus cili (French);  Büffelgras (German);  anjan grass , koluk katai, dhaman (India);  pasto buffel (Spanish);  zacate buffel (Spanish - Mexico);  capim-bfel (Portuguese - Brazil).

Morphological description

Extremely variable species, tufted (sometimes shortly rhizomatous) perennial, with types ranging in habit from ascendant to erect, and branching culms from about 0.3-2.0 m at maturity.  Leaf blades linear, 2-13 mm wide and 3-30 cm long; green, blue green to grey green in colour, scabrous, mostly glabrous, sometimes hairy at the base.  Panicle an erect or nodding, straw, grey or purple coloured, bristly, false spike, 2-15 cm long and 1-2.5 cm wide, with seed units or fascicles inserted along a zig-zag axis.  Each bur-like fascicle comprises a single spikelet or cluster of 2-4 spikelets, 3.5-5 mm long surrounded by an involucre of bristles of various length up to 16 mm long; bristles barbed and ( hairy, giving the fascicle an adhesive quality.  330,000-550,000 seed units/kg, or 900,000-2,000,000 caryopses/kg.  Deep, strong, fibrous root system to >2 m.

Distribution

Native to:
Africa:  Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Indian Ocean :  Madagascar.
Asia:  Afghanistan, Djibouti, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen.
Europe:  Sicily.

Widely naturalised in sub-humid and semi-arid tropics and subtropics.

Uses/applications

Mainly used as a permanent pasture, but can be used for hay or silage.  Not suited to short-term pasture because too difficult to remove and binds nutrient.

Ecology

Soil requirements

Often occurs in the wild on sandy soils, but is also well adapted to deep, freely draining sandy loam, loam, clay loam and red earth soils.  Although slow to establish on black cracking clay soils, once established it grows well.  Requires good fertility, particularly with respect to N, P and Ca.  P levels should be >10 mg/kg and total N levels >0.1%.  The optimum soil reaction is pH 7-8, but grows on soils with pH as low as 5.5.  Very sensitive to high levels of soil aluminium and manganese.  Apart from soil depth, rooting depth is also limited by high subsoil salinity or sodicity and low pH (<5).  However, does have moderate tolerance of salinity, but not as good as that of Chloris gayana .

Moisture

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The most drought tolerant of the commonly sown grasses, Cenchrus ciliaris occurs naturally in areas with average annual rainfall from as low as 100 mm up to about 1,000 mm, but most commonly between 300 and 750 mm.  Under cultivation, it has been grown in areas with rainfall as high as 2,900 mm, although this is exceptional.  Winter rainfall should be < 400 mm.  Does not survive prolonged waterlogging , particularly in cold season, but can stand up to 5 days of flooding with negligible adverse effect.  Losses of 15-70% occur after 20 days of flooding.  Tolerance of flooding varies with ecotype, the taller varieties appearing to be more flood-tolerant.

Temperature

Found from about 33ºS in South Africa to about 35ºN in Syria and 37ºN in Sicily, and from sea level to 2,500 m asl.  This equates to a distributional range of the species over regions with average annual temperatures from about 12-28ºC.  Optimum temperature for photosynthesis in varieties measured is 35ºC, and minimum between 5 and 16ºC.  Relative growth rate rises steeply from 15/10º-30/25ºC, with a small further increment to 36/31ºC.  Some varieties are better adapted to cooler environments than others.  Winter survival varies with ecotype, some surviving to -7ºC.  Tops are killed by frost but plants mostly recover with resumption of warmer conditions.  In general, performs best in areas where mean minimum winter temperatures are >5ºC.

Light

Intolerant of shade.

Reproductive development

An early flowering short day plant with an optimal photoperiod of 12 hours.  Flowering time varies among ecotypes.

Defoliation

Slow to establish and grazing may need to be delayed 4-6 months after sowing, and up to 9-12 months, depending on establishment conditions.  Very tolerant of regular cutting or grazing.  Since quality declines rapidly with age, should be cut or grazed at least every 8 weeks.  Leafiness is maintained by low cutting at about 7 cm.

Fire

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Very tolerant of, and favoured by fire.  Cover of Cenchrus ciliaris can increase, and populations of associated fire-susceptible species decrease in a fire regime.

Agronomy

Establishment

Fresh seed often has high level of dormancy.  Germination rate can be improved with storage of 6-18 months after harvest or by separating caryopses.  Total live seed content is commonly 30-50%.  Establishment is difficult on hard setting and heavy clay soils.  Establishes readily if competition is controlled.  Sown 0-1 cm deep at 1-2 kg seed/ha, the lower rate on sandy-loam soils.  The fluffy seed can cause bridging problems in mechanical planters, although pelleting can improve flow of seed.  Best sown through a roller drum, grass airseeder, modified fertiliser spreader or modified combine.  Mixing with fertiliser, cracked grain, or using pelleted seed improves distribution through airseeders and combines.  Sow at and rely on follow-up rain for establishment.  Can also be established vegetatively from "splits".

Fertiliser

Establishment fertiliser is rarely necessary since Cenchrus ciliaris should only be sown on fertile soils.  However, phosphorous may be necessary if sowing with a legume .  Stands become unproductive with time as nitrogen is tied up in the root system.  It is generally not economical to apply nitrogen fertiliser to overcome this situation, but management techniques include use of legumes (e.g. Leucaena leucocephala ) or limited cultivation to release mineral N from the soil organic matter every 3-5 years.

Compatibility (with other species)

Cenchrus ciliaris is a particularly aggressive grass, by virtue of its extensive root system competing with associated species for water and nutrients.  It also appears to be allelopathic (suppression of other species by exudation of phytotoxic chemicals that inhibit germination and growth of other plants).

Companion species

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Pests and diseases

The most serious disease is buffel grass blight caused by the fungus, Magnaporte grisea (anamorph Pyricularia grisea), a rampant leaf spot disease that reduces quality and production of forage and seed, and in some cases, destroys stands.  Pyricularia grisea is a highly variable pathogen and differential responses have been found to occur, with some varieties of Cenchrus ciliaris being resistant to the various races of the pathogen.  Other fungal species causing damage are Fusarium oxysporum, Bipolaris sp., and Claviceps sp.  Alternative host for Claviceps fusiformis is pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum ).
Seed crops can be reduced by buffel grass seed caterpillars (Mampava rhodoneura) that feed on seed, webbing the heads together.  Can be controlled by spraying crops with methomyl 10 days after heads emerge.

Ability to spread

Spreads readily by seed, which is well adapted to dispersal by wind or water movement.  Seed also moved by livestock through adhesion to fur, or through ingestion and defecation.  No natural spread on soils of pH <7, even though establishment with cultivation is possible on these soils.

Weed potential

Invasive in arid and semi-arid environments, and has been declared noxious in some areas.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

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CP values are mostly in the range of 6-16%, and IVDMD and CP digestibility from 50-60%, depending on age of growth, cultivar, and soil fertility (incl. fertiliser use).  P levels are usually higher than in other tropical grasses and range from 0.15-0.65% in the DM.

Palatability/acceptability

Generally less palatable than Panicum coloratum and P. maximum but more palatable than Setaria incrassata .

Toxicity

Oxalate levels can cause 'big head' (Osteodystrophia fibrosa) in horses, and oxalate poisoning in young or hungry sheep.  However, with soluble oxalate levels of 1-2% in the DM, there is rarely a problem with mature ruminants.

Production potential

Dry matter

Yields depend greatly on soil fertility and growing conditions, but are mostly in the range of 2-9 t/ha DM, and under ideal conditions, up to 24 t/ha DM.

Animal production

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Can carry up to 1 steer or 6 sheep/ha, depending on rainfall and soil fertility .  Cattle can gain up to 180-200 kg/hd/yr at 2 ha/beast on fertile soils under good growing conditions.

Genetics/breeding

Most ecotypes are obligate apomicts although facultative apomicts that reproduce by sexual and apomictic means also exist.  A unique sexual mutant from a US population has been used in plant breeding programs.  Chromosome numbers 2n = 32, 34, 36, 40, 44, 52 and 54, the most common being 2n = 4x = 36.  Also find plants with 2n = 5x = 45 and 6 x  = 54.

Seed production

Nitrogen is essential for seed production, yields being raised 10-fold and more with nitrogen fertiliser, usually at rates of 100 or 200 kg/ha N.  Depending on growing conditions and variety, seed yields range between about 150 and 500 kg/ha.

Herbicide effects

Can be controlled using a combination of glyphosate and ammonium sulphate, possibly in repeat applications.  Seedlings can be controlled using the grass -selective herbicide, fluazifop-p-butyl or dicamba, 2,4-D, 3,6-dichloropicolinic acid, triclopyr, tebuthiuron, or hexazinone.  Older stands, particularly freshly cut material can be at least reduced using hexazinone or tebuthiuron.

Strengths

  • Persistent.
  • Very drought tolerant.
  • Quick to respond after rain.
  • Widely adapted.

Limitations

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  • Needs high fertility for production.
  • Establishment is difficult on clay soils.
  • Will not survive prolonged flooding or waterlogging .
  • Can cause 'big head' in horses.
  • "Fluffy" seed is difficult to sow.
  • Threat to certain sub-humid to arid environments.

Other comments

    

Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp. 66-74. (Longman: London and New York).
Gibbs Russell, G. E., Watson, L., Koekemoer, M., Smook, L., Barker, N. P., Anderson, H. M., and Dallwitz, M. J. (1990) `Grasses of Southern Africa.' Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 58 . Botanical Research Institute: Pretoria.
't Mannetje, L. and Kersten, S.M.M. (1992) Cenchrus ciliaris L. In: 't Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. pp. 77-79. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).

Internet links

Cultivars

Cultivars

Country/date released

Details

'American'
(also USA or Common; T-4464, PI 153671, Grif 1618, Q4841)
USA (1949)
Australia (1956)
From Turkana Desert in NW Kenya (ca 3ºN, 500 m asl, rainfall ca 200 mm).  A medium-short, early maturing, non-rhizomatous type, with fine stems, dense green foliage, and purple inflorescence, suitable for light to medium textured soils.  Similar to Gayndah, but earlier flowering.  Better seedling survival on acid soils than other cultivars.  Selected for drought tolerance and forage production.  Rapid growth from very early spring through late summer.  Growth continues during hottest part of summer with brief showers.  Fast recovery from grazing and drought.  Susceptible to buffel grass blight (Pyricularia grisea).
'Aridus' Brazil (1990) No information available.
'Bella'
(CPI 48280)
Australia (1994) From Tanzania (1ºS, 1,130 m asl, rainfall ca 830 mm).  Intermediate in height between the shorter 'American' and 'Gayndah' and more robust 'Biloela'.  Long inflorescences, long, relatively narrow, bright green leaves; higher Na concentration (0.7%) in the leaves and later flowering than other varieties.  Relatively few rhizomes compared with 'Biloela' and 'Molopo'.  Adapted to sub-humid to semi-arid subtropical environments.  Establishes well on clay soils.  Better early-season growth than 'Biloela', 'American', 'Gayndah' and 'Molopo'.  Well-grazed by sheep and better utilised than the coarser 'Biloela'.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
'Bergbuffel' South Africa (2000) From North West Province, South Africa.  Tufted erect growth habit, taller type, rhizomatous, leaves green (grey-green in 'Molopo') and pointing upwards.  Selected for palatability (more palatable than 'Molopo') and drought resistance.  Widely adapted with good cold tolerance.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
'Biloela'
(CPI 6934, Grif 1620, PI 253725, PI 284837, PI 307619, PI 414497)
Australia (1955) Institutional collection, Type D, from Mpwapwa, Tanzania.  Later maturing, taller (to 1.5 m) more robust, rhizomatous type, with glaucous (greyish) leaves.  Well adapted to sandy soils, but better adapted to heavier clays than shorter varieties.  More tolerant of moderate salinity than other cultivars.  Very drought tolerant.  Susceptible to Pyricularia grisea in North America and Australia.
'Blue'
(PI 133898, T-3782)
USA (1952) Institutional collection from South Africa.  An intermediate, shortly rhizomatous type with stems to 60 or 90 cm.  Selected for early spring growth recovery (about 3 weeks ahead of 'American'), vigorous summer growth, high forage production, rapid plant expansion, drought tolerance, resistance to injury by leafhoppers and aphids, and tolerance to light frost (active end of season growth continues about 3 weeks longer than for 'American').  Grows well on clay soils.  Relatively low seed production.  Readily eaten by cattle as pasture or hay .
'Boorara'
(Q 2953, PI 414500)
Australia (1962) Origin uncertain.  Tall, moderately rhizomatous type, finer stemmed, leaves glaucous ; leafier, and slightly later flowering than 'Biloela'.  Susceptible to Pyricularia grisea in North America and Australia.
'Bundel-Anjan-1' India (1989) No information available.
'Chipinga' Zimbabwe (1950s) From Zimbabwe (20ºS, 1,100 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm).  Fine, leafy type.
'Formidable' Cuba
Mexico
No information available.
'Frio'
(PI 409704)
USA (1998) Hybrid.  Cold tolerant but poor seed production.
'Gayndah'
(CPI 1848, Grif 1619, PI 253727, PI 284838, PI 307620
Australia (1934) Institutional collection from Kenya.  Fine, medium-short, tufted, non-rhizomatous type, to 90 cm tall (commonly 30-60 cm), mid-season flowering (later than 'WA'), suitable for light to medium textured soils.  Better stock acceptance and more densely tillered than 'Biloela'.  Tolerant of heavy grazing.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in North America, but susceptible in Australia.
'Higgins'
(B-1S, GP1)
USA (1966, 1968) A single sexual plant found in Texas presumed to be a sexual mutant of the apomict, 'Blue'.  Rhizomatous, green foliage, brownish-wine inflorescence, resembling 'American' in foliage and inflorescence colour, but differs in the presence of rhizomes and more compact inflorescence.  Distinct from 'Blue', which has bluish foliage and tan-coloured inflorescence.  Produces less forage than 'Blue' but has superior seed production.  Used as female parent in crosses with apomictic strains or production of segregating selfed progeny.  Crosses readily with other C. ciliaris or C. setigerus.
'Kalahari' South Africa (1999) Robust, dark green type, moderate seed production, better quality than 'Molopo'.
'Kongwa 531' Tanzania (1960s) From Kongwa, Tanzania (6ºS, 1,130 m asl, rainfall 550 mm).  Fine-leaved, erect type of medium height which produces ample seed and has excellent drought resistance.
'Laredo' USA (2000) Mixture of several lines.  Resistant to current strains of buffel grass blight in the North America.  Marketed by Pogue Agri Partners Inc.
'Lawes'
(CPI 14365, Q 3463)
Australia (1962) Institutional collection from South Africa.  Tall, leafy, erect, rhizomatous type with grey foliage, morphologically similar to 'Molopo';  bristles of the involucre green in the lower part.  Similar in performance to 'Molopo' but claimed to have higher seed production.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
'Llano'
(Experimental hybrid #331, NSL 102681)
USA (1977) Apomictic F1 hybrid between 'Higgins' and rhizomatous introduction from Africa.  Better forage production (30%), and earlier spring growth than 'American', excellent persistence.  Superior cold tolerance to 'American', 'Higgins', and 'Nueces'.
'Manzimnyarna'      Dwarf strain, suitable for semi-arid conditions.
'Marwar Anjan'
(CAZRI-75)
India (1985) Institutional collection from Australia.  For arid and semi-arid parts of India.  Tall, thick stemmed, erect, rhizomatous drought hardy perennial with broad, long, pendulous leaves that remain green up to maturity.  Widely adapted with high tillering ability and good regeneration.  Cut 2-3 times per year, yielding 7,000 kg of green fodder and 3,000 kg of dry matter per hectare under desert conditions.
'Mbalambala' Kenya From south-east Kenya (0º, 210 m asl).  Multi-tillered, semi-prostrate type, forming broad tufts.  Very palatable to cattle.
'Molopo'
(PI 307621, PI 319459, PI 414474, PI 414476)
South Africa (early 1950s)
Australia (1953)
From North West Province, South Africa (ca. 27ºS, 800 m asl, rainfall ca 150mm).  A little taller and more rhizomatous than 'Biloela', distinctly grey leaves and straw-coloured seed heads.    Later flowering than 'Biloela' but earlier than 'Bella'.  Cold tolerant and grows longer into the cool season.  Well adapted to heavier soils.  Good seed production if adequately N fertilised.  Highly susceptible to Pyricularia grisea in North America, but largely resistant in Australia.
'Mopani' South Africa (1999) Taller type, rhizomatous, leafier and with less dormancy than 'Kalahari', but not as cold tolerant or as vigorous, good seed production.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
'Nueces'
(PI 476989)
USA (1977) Apomictic F1 hybrid between 'Higgins' and a rhizomatous introduction from Africa.  Improved cold tolerance, better forage production, and higher IVDMD than 'American' and 'Higgins'.  Highly susceptible to buffel grass blight in North America.
'Nunbank'
(CPI 12778, PI 339892)
Australia (1961) Institutional collection from Uganda.  Similar to 'Biloela' in most respects, but has superior seedling vigour.  Susceptible to Pyricularia grisea in North America and Australia.
'Pecos' USA (2000) Mixture of several lines.  More cold tolerant and more productive (30%) than 'American'.  More cold hardy than 'Laredo'.  Resistant to buffel grass blight in North America.  Marketed by Pogue Agri Partners Inc.
'Pusa Giant Anjan' India No information available.
'Sebungwe' Zimbabwe? Dwarf strain, suitable for semi-arid conditions.
'Tarewinnabar'
(CPI 13246, PI 339893)
Australia (1962) From Kenya.  Similar to 'Biloela' in most respects, except taller and leaves are green not glaucous .  Good seedling vigour.  Better early-season growth and slightly later flowering than 'Biloela'.  More flood tolerant than other varieties tested.  Susceptible to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
'Viva'
(CPI 33100)
Australia (1994) From Moroto, Uganda (2º30'N, 1,400 m asl, rainfall ca 1,000 mm).  Similar height to 'Gayndah', and shorter than 'Bella'.  Green leaves; unlike 'Bella', it has a low leaf sodium concentration.  Late flowering.  Better early season growth than 'Biloela', 'American', 'Gayndah' and 'Molopo'.  Few short rhizomes.  Competes well with weeds during establishment.  Well grazed by sheep.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Paraguay and Australia.
'West Australian'
(PI 284839, PI 414672)
Australia Inadvertent introduction in 1870s.  Non-rhizomatous, short tussock type to 75 cm (lowest growing of Australian varieties), with dense, fine, leafy tillers; leaves green.  Very early flowering and not as vigorous as the taller varieties.  Well suited to lower rainfall and short wet season areas because of earlier seed set.  Good growth habit for sheep grazing.  Higher intake and feeding value than 'Biloela'.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in North America but susceptible in Australia.
'Worcester' South Africa Similar to 'Molopo' and 'Mopani', excellent seed production.
'Zaragosa' Mexico No information available.
'Zeerust' South Africa (1940s) Tall, leafy form adapted to 500-625 mm rainfall area in South Africa.

Promising accessions

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Promising accessions

Country

Details

CPI 60629 Australia From Etosha Pan, Namibia (18.80ºS, 1,100 m asl, rainfall 450 mm). 
CPI 71914 Australia Gayndah type.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea in Australia.
CPI 73383
(PI 364433)
Australia 'Karasberg' strain from northern South Africa or Namibia, Biloela type.  Tufted, foliage to 1 m high.  Performed well in multi-site evaluation.
CPI 73394
(PI 364444)
Australia Mpumalunga Province (Abel Erasmus Pass), South Africa.  Performed well in multi-site evaluation.
Q 10077 Australia Harer, Ethiopia (9.3ºN, 42.3ºE, 1,600 m asl , ca 700 mm).  Blue leaf.
Q 10087 Australia Nyamandhlovu, Zimbabwe (20ºS, 1,200 m asl, rainfall 590 mm) Gayndah type? - late flowering.  Tall type.
AN-17-PS USA A tetraploid hybrid created by crossing Zaragoza 115 with the sexual plant TAMCRDB1S.  Developed in Coauila, Mexico.  Superior winter hardiness, high seed and forage production; abundance of fine stems; resistant to Pyricularia grisea.  Used in both Pecos and Laredo Brand blends.
PS-XPN USA An apomictic tetraploid , selected out of a field that was once 'Nueces'.  High seed production and seed retention.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea.  Dark purple seed head with larger seed than most other varieties.  Heavy stems.  Part of the Laredo Brand blend.
PS-560 USA Off-type selection from PI 284834. Good seed production.  Resistant to Pyricularia grisea.  Part of the Laredo Brand blend.
PS-OT2 USA This was an off-type out of an off-type (= OT2) out of PI 409704, from which Frio was selected.  This plant extends the head well above the canopy, making it especially easy to harvest the seed.  Better seed and forage< /A> production than 'Frio', and cold tolerance nearly equivalent.  Very sensitive to Pyricularia grisea.  Part of the Pecos Brand blend.
CPI 61135 - 61143 Australia C. ciliaris x C. setiger from Texas.
IGFRI-S-3108 India No information available.
IGFRI-S-3133 India No information available.
C-357 India No information available.
C-358 India No information available.