Volume 29 No. 3
JULY 1, 1919
W. A. McRAE
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE
Entered January 31, 1903, at Tallahassce, Florida, as second-class
matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900.
"Acceptance for mailing at special rate of postage provided for
in Section 1103, Act of October 3. 1917, authorized Sept. 11, 1918."
THESE BULLETINS ARE ISSUED F~ TO THOSE REQUESTING THEM
T. J. APPLaYAKD, STATS PRINTRa
TAXLLAASBB, WLORIDA J
BY PROF. P. H. ROLFS.
The value of this grass was discovered by Cecil Rhodes,
whose name it bears. This was about 1895, at Cape
Town, South Africa. March 8, 1903, Messrs. Lathrop and
Fairchild secured a small quantity of the seed and for-
warded it to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. At
that time Dr. Fairchild wrote, "The grass has done well
there [Mr. Rhodes' farm near Cape Town] forming a
heavy sod of good herbage, and the manager of Mr.
Rhodes' farm has had the seed collected and distributed
among the planters of the colony, by whom it is called
'Rhodes Grass.' From what I saw of these patches on
the slopes of a hillside, I do not believe it is a drought
resistant form; at least it is not able to withstand very
severe dry weather. * it need be tested only in the
frostless or nearly frostless regions." This seems to
have been the first time this grass seed was brought into
the United States and tested for forage purposes.
TESTING AT THE EXPERIMENT STATION.
In 1909 a larger amount of seed was obtained by the
Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. On April 6
of that year a small packet of about an ounce was sent to
the Experiment Station by Prof. C. V. Piper, Agros-
tologist, Bureau of Plant Industry. On April 12, 1909,
one-half of this seed was sown in a flat in the greenhouse.
On April 15 the seedlings were showing above the ground.
On April 28 these seedlings were transplanted to the
grass garden. The other half of the seed was sown
directly in the grass garden on April 15. On May 5 these
were coming up and by June 5 some plants were 6 inches
tall. .On July 2, 1909, both rows were sending up seed
stalks and were about equally vigorous. On August 3
seed had ripened and was saved. The grass at this time
was about 4 feet tall. No cuttings were made from these
Spots, as it was desired to get as much seed as possible.
On December 10, 1909, the temperature went down to
280 F. The grass passed through this without injury.
During the latter part of December the temperature went
down to 170 F., and all the leaves were killed to the
ground. February 4, 1910, green shoots began to come out
and by April 5 it had recovered sufficiently to make good
grazing. The first cutting was made June 26, when the
stalks stood from 11/2 to 3 feet tall. On September 1 it
again stood about 3 feet tall and a second cutting was
made. On October 1 it was again about 3 feet tall. On
the 30th of October the temperature went down to 320 F.,
without injuring the grass. On December 3 the tem.
perature went down to 230 F., killing off all the leaves,
but the roots were uninjured. On February 23, 1911, we
experienced a temperature of 250 F., killing back all
growth made, but not injuring the roots materially. By
April 7, some of the plants were 15 inches tall, and by
the middle of the month were sending up seed stalks.
During the summer of 1911 the growth was better than
during 1910. The stalks reached a height of 4 feet. A
cutting for hay was made as late as October 24.
WINTER-KILLED IN 1912.
During the winter of 1911-12 we had comparatively
little freezing weather. The lowest temperature occurred
on December 30 and on January 16. The thermometer
went down to 290 F. on the former date and to 250 on
the latter date. Nearly all the plants of the 1909 sowing
were killed. It is probable that the late cutting left the
plants weakened, or it may be that the warm moist winter
caused the roots to be less resistant to cold.
During 1911 enough seed was furnished by Prof. Piper
to sow about one-third of an acre. This was sown August
12, and a fair stand obtained, but. the winter of 1911-12
proved very severe on it. The stand being quite imper-
fect, the field was plowed and re-sown. In the fall of
1912 and the spring of 1913 more seed was secured from
commercial sources, but this all proved to be very low
in germinating quality.
WITHSTAND SHORT COLD PERIODS WHEN SOIL Is MOIST.
During succeeding years experiments were continued to
test its adaptation to various kinds of soils and the effects
of cold weather. The effects of cold varies greatly under
varying moisture and temperature conditions. The winter
of 1911-12 was particularly severe on the plants, though
not excessively cold at any time. The rainfall was rather
light and the temperature went below 250 F. several
times, but not below 200 F. In the winter of 1916-17
there was a well-distributed rainfall and an excessively
low temperature, the lowest record being 170 on
February 3. The roots lived through the winter and made
a fair growth during March. This experience indicates
that Rhodes grass may survive a temperature of 170 F.
if abundance of moisture is present and the cold of only
short duration-a week or so-as was the case in 1917,
while frequent cold spells, when the soil is rather dry,
are likely to prove killing even when the temperature
does not go much below 250 F. A temperature of 26' F.
is likely to kill the plants to the roots, while a tempera-
ture of 32 F. is not likely to damage the tops materially.
Seed has been gathered from our test plots from time to
time. This 'has been found to keep well and have a good
germinating quality. It seeded abundantly and the seed
is harvested quite readily, though not as easily as the
seed of timothy and some other good hay grasses. It would
seem possible for persons located in regions where this
grass grows readily to produce, profitably, all the seed
needed. No difficulty has been encountered so far in the
matter of producing and saving the seed. It matures
quite uniformly in the head and holds fairly well against
shattering. The grass with ripened seed may be cut and
bound into convenient sized bundles. This is then cured
in the most convenient way. After the bundles have been
thoroughly dried the seed can be easily beaten out. This
way of saving seed will suffice for experimental test, but
for commercial purposes machinery will have to be used
to eliminate much of the costly hand labor.
Mr. E. W. Amsden, of Ormond, wrote us on November
4, 1912, that he cut a piece 40 by 60 feet, from which he
got fourteen sheaves. From two of these sheaves he
pounded out an eight-quart pan level full of seed, weigh-
ing from a pound to a pound and a half. An acre at this
rate would have yielded over one hundred pounds of seed.
These figures are based on too limited data to be made a
basis of calculation, but serve in a general way as an
index of what may be expected under favorable condi-
tions. The important seed, received mainly from Aus-
tralia, has been sold at $1.00 to $1.50 per pound. The
seed is very light, weighing only about 71/2 pounds per
YIELD OF HAY.
Very large yields of hay were secured during the sum-
mer of 1912. The very low germinating quality of the
seed sown in 1913 has greatly discouraged the extensive
planting of this grass.
Reports of enormous yields 'have been published from
time to time. It has been sufficiently tested to show that
much larger yields of Rhodes grass hay can be produced
annually in Florida than is possible from grass in the
hay-producing States. "There are authentic reports of
total yields per season of six tons per acre of well-cured
hay secured from three cuttings, the first cutting being
made in May, the second in July, and the third in Sep-
tember." (Yearbook, 1912. page 498, U. S. Dept. Agric.)
In South Florida on the drained lands it has made an
especially fine showing as a forage and hay grassi In
some instances extremely large yields of hay have been
produced. The cold weather in this region is rarely suf-
ficient to damage it and in many localities good grazing
may be had from it at all times of the year. It is
especially valuable in this section during the winter,
when it affords an abundance of succulent grazing. Other
grasses, such; as Para and Carib, are more affected by
the dry and cool weather.
In Queensland, according to the Agricultural Gazette
of New South Wales, for April, 1911, as much as five
and one-third tons of hay per acre have been produced in
According to the Annual Report of the Arizona Ex-
periment Station, it has been tested there for six years
and there passed a temperature of 170 to 200 F. without
injury, but it is not recommended as an arid region grass.
Under irrigation it produced one and a half tons of hay
at each of two annual cuttings.
REGIONS IN WHICH TO TRY RHODES GRASS.
It should be tested by all farmers of Florida in an
experimental way. It has been generally successful in
the region from Gainesville southward. Those farmers
who are in a position to do so should try it on a one to
fiv-eaere extent. In the region from G'ainesville north-
ward and westward it would be advisable to try it on a
smaller scale. In a general way, in those places where
the winter temperature does not go below 23 or 220 F.,
this grass may be sown with, a fair prospect of not having
the roots winter-killed.
TIME Or SOWING.
In Central and South Florida it would seem advisable
to sow during October and November, or during Feb-
ruary, March or April. The seed is very small, and con,
sequently the seedlings are weak. It germinates quickly
under favorable conditions. Under perfect conditions
we found that seed sown on April 12 was coming up on
the 15th, and on the 28th the seedlings were large enough
to transplant to the text plot. A sowing in the test plot
made on March 15, 1912, gave grass four feet tall by
June 25, and was ready for the first cutting approxi-
mately one hundred days from time of seeding. The
following year, 1913, the grass on these plots was ready
for making into hay on May 1.
If the soil is in first-class condition, seed sown in
October or November will become well established before
winter and give early spring pasturage, or an early crop
In South Florida on the drained lands it may be sown
at any time of the year, but preferably from October to
March. At this time of the year the seedlings are less
liable to be smothered by weeds and native grass.
In North and West Florida the seed should be sown
in the spring after the soil has become warm enough for
corn planting. This will give sufficient time to get two
of three mowings for hay and also some late fall
pasturage. During favorable winters the grass may live
through and be useful for pasturage in the spring and for
haying during the summer and fall.
PREPARATION OF THE SOIL.
It should be remembered that this seed is much smaller
than either oats or rye, and consequently the seed bed
will need much more careful preparation. The land
should be plowed deeply and thoroughly. The surface
should be left as dearly level as possible. After the plow-
ing has been done the field should be leveled further by
the use of a smoothing harrow or plank. The seeds should
not be sown until sufficient moisture is near the surface
of the soil to cause them to germinate quickly and to
grow strong seedlings. On compact soils it is usually suf-
ficient to go over the land a time or two with a weighted
plank. This will cover the seed a half inch or less. On the
more fibrous soil a roller will be better. The points that
must be borne in mind are that enough moisture must be
near the surface of the soil to germinate the seed and
then the moisture must be held there until the seedlings
have become established.
KIND OF SOIL.
The best crops have been produced on the best farm
lands. Good hammock land with a clay foundation will
be found excellent. These occur in many parts of the
State, especially around Brooksville. Fine crops have
been produced at St. Augustine, Ormond, Dunedin and
Miami, where there is less clay in the soil. Many ex-
cellent crops have been grown on well-drained lands.
CHARACTER OF THE GRASS.
The general character of the plant is nearly ideal. The
forage and stalk grow upright, making it easy to mow.
It does not bunch or tangle in mowing. The plants stool
out very much like timothy. In addition to the stooling
it also produces rattoons that root at the joints and form
new plants, these again stool like the parent plant. These
rattoons will sometimes grow as much as six feet long in
a single season. This habit of producing rattoons enables
the grass to cover the ground quite completely, although
the catch from seeding may be irregular. The Agricul-
tural Gazette of New South Wales for July 2, 1909, pub-
lished the picture of a plant grown from a'single seed.
At eight months it spread over an area of four feet, three
inches in diameter.
Rhodes grass can be easily killed by ordinary farm
methods. It has no underground rattoons and dies read-
ily when plowed up, so no one need fear that it will ever
become a farm pest. It does not spread rapidly from
seed under natural conditions.
COMPOSITION OF RHODES GRASS HAY.
Moisture Protein Fat Free Crude Ash
EI i I Extract Fiber A
Rhodes Grass*.. 11.8 6.1 2.3 42.5 30.2 7.2 0.21
(2 analyses) 9.9 7.3 1.4 44.6 29.2 7.6 0.20
Crab Grasst .. 10.3 6.9 1.6 41.0 32.9 7.3
Timothyt ... 13.2 5.9 2.5 45.0 29.0 4.4
*Hawaii Report. 1908, pp. 58-59.
tFlorida Report, 1909, p. xix.
The protein, fat and nitrogen-free extract are the sub-
stances that are of special value in a feed. The table
shows that these substances are present in Rhodes grass
in approximately the same ratio as in crabgrass and
timothy. The selling price of Rhodes-grass hay should be
the same as that of timothy. As a matter of fact, we do
not get the best quality of timothy in our markets, and it
is, therefore, likely that the timothy hay offered to us is
really not as valuable as is Rhodes-grass hay.
USES FOR RHODES GRASS.
Rhodes grass has been introduced into Florida so re-
cently that there has been no opportunity to test it out
in feeding experiments nor for grazing purposes. It has
been tested much more extensively and thoroughly in
Australia, where it is highly recommended both as a graz-
ing grass and as a hay grass. Their stock prefer it to the
American paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum). It is es-
pecially useful in the moister regions where the tempera-
ture does not go much below freezing. In the dryer re-
gions it does well under irrigation.
Thanks are due to Prof. C. V. Piper, Agrostologist,
Bureau Plant Industry, for supplying much of the seed
used in these experiments. The U. S. Bureau of Plant
Industry has distributed packets of Rhodes grass seed to
all sections of the State and has aided the farmers in
securing large quantities of seed where they wished to
try it on an extensive scale. Seedsmen of the South are
now advertising it in their catalogues so that everyone
wishing to do so can try it out for themselves. The
Experiment Station has none of the seed or plants for
sale or distribution.