Cenchrus pennisetiformis


Scientific name

Cenchrus pennisetiformis Hochst. & Steud.

Synonyms

Cenchrus ciliaris var. intermedius Chiov.

Family/tribe

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

Common names

Cloncurry, white, or slender buffel grass (Australia);  lidder (Pakistan).

Morphological description

Perennial (occasionally behaving as an annual) tussock, erect or ascending to 60-80 cm tall, similar to smaller - medium types of C. ciliaris .  Leaf blades linear, to 15 cm long, and 4 mm wide.  Panicle a light straw-coloured to purplish false spike, 2-7 cm long and ca 1 cm wide, with seed units or fascicles inserted along a zigzag axis.  Each bur-like fascicle comprises a single spikelet or cluster of 2-5 spikelets, 4-5 mm long surrounded by an involucre of bristles up to 12 mm long, the bristles being densely ciliate around the spikelets.  Differentiated from C. ciliaris in that the inner bristles of the involucre of C. pennisetiformis are united for 1-3 mm above the base, whereas in the former they are only united at the base.  400,000 seed units/kg.

Distribution

Native to:
Africa:  Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan.
Asia:  Southern Iran, Yemen, India, Pakistan.
Native to or naturalised in the Mediterranean region, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.  Naturalised in northern semi-arid Australia.
As an extreme example of natural adaptation:  Found in the middle of the dunes in Cholistan, central Pakistan, an arid area with an average annual rainfall of 128-178 mm.  In summer, temperature is as high as 52ºC, and in winter it falls below freezing point.

Uses/applications

Primarily for permanent pasture.  Valuable standover feed in low-rainfall areas as it remains green well into the dry season.

Ecology

Soil requirements

Prefers sandy soils, loams and alluvial silts, but does not extend onto heavy cracking clays.  Best on fertile soils with high phosphorus and calcium levels, and pH >7.  In northwestern Queensland, Australia, it has spread from river alluvium to frontage woodlands and stony, undulating country beyond.

Moisture

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Although mostly naturalised in northwestern Queensland in the 370-560 mm annual rainfall zone, it is adapted to arid and semi-arid climates with annual rainfall as low as 130mm, with a long dry season.  Excellent drought tolerance, remaining green during the dry season.  However, extended severe droughts can kill plants.  Survives seasonal flooding.

Temperature

Grows in hotter areas than C. ciliaris (average temperature range: 10-30°C).  Moderate frost tolerance, with leaves being burnt but most plants recovering with onset of rain and warm conditions.  Best adapted between 20°N and S latitudes and from sea level to 400 m asl .

Light

Grows in partial shade along river banks and under larger trees, as well as in open country.

Reproductive development

An early flowering short day plant.

Defoliation

Grazed early in the growing season , allowed to seed, and then stocked again to help spread the seed.

Fire

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Recovers well following fire.

Agronomy

Establishment

Similar post-harvest dormancy to C. ciliaris and C. setiger .  Needs some soil disturbance for establishment.  Normally broadcast over a single light cultivation and around large trees, edges of roads and cattle tracks.  Good seedling vigour.  Establishes readily after flooding disturbance beside fertile water courses.

Fertiliser

Responds to nitrogen and phosphorous.  Uneconomical to fertilise in semi-arid and arid areas.  Spreads more rapidly on alluvial soils where phosphorous levels are higher.  Flourishes around the bases of trees where fertility is higher.

Compatibility (with other species)

Plants are very competitive in well-suited environments.  Usually grows as a monospecific sward once established.

Companion species

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Grasses:  There are currently no well-adapted grasses available where this species is best adapted.
Legumes:  No legumes currently available for this environment.

Pests and diseases

No major pests or diseases in pastures.  Seed crops can be reduced by buffel grass seed caterpillars (Mampava rhodoneura) that feed on seed, webbing the heads together.

Ability to spread

Seed spread by wind, water movement and adhesion to livestock, mostly near watercourses where soil phosphorous levels are high and the soil surface is of a lighter texture.  Gradually spreading into poorer soils.

Weed potential

Not considered a serious weed, although can displace less vigorous native grasses.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

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Approaches that of C. ciliaris .

Palatability/acceptability

Stems are soft and the whole herbage is well grazed by sheep and cattle.

Toxicity

While no toxicity has been reported, "big-head" disease of horses from Ca /P imbalance should be considered if C. pennisetiformis is the major source of forage for extended periods.

Production potential

Dry matter

Yields vary with proximity to trees, probably reflecting the higher fertility under trees due to cattle camping and litter drop.  Yields of over 6 t/ha DM have been recorded under trees compared with 2-3.5 t/ha DM away from the base of trees.

Animal production

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Prime condition bullocks can be produced on vigorous stands growing on fertile river frontage soils in the semi-arid tropics.

Genetics/breeding

2n = 35, 42, 54.  Considered a natural hybrid between C. ciliaris and C. setiger , most resembling the former.

Seed production

Seeds heavily and can be hand picked or mechanically harvested.

Herbicide effects

No information but probably similar to those for C. ciliaris :
"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

  • Ability to colonise the banks of streams in the dry tropics.
  • Good palatability compared with most other arid zone grasses.
  • Very drought tolerant.
  • Very persistent.
  • Maintains good ground cover preventing erosion in droughts.

Limitations

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  • Does not grow on heavy cracking clays.

Other comments

    

Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). p. 74. (Longman: London and New York).
Hall, T.J. (1978) Cloncurry buffel grass (Cenchrus pennisetiformis ) in north-western Queensland. Tropical Grasslands, 12, 10-19.

Internet links

Cultivars

Cultivars

Country/date released

Details

Common Australia Naturalised ecotype.

Promising accessions

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Promising accessions

Country

Details

None reported.