Saturday, 2 April 2016

Brachiaria brizantha Common Signal Grass

Brachiaria brizantha
Common Signal Grass, Bread Grass, Palisade Grass

German:  Palisadengras

Urochloa brizantha
Panicum brizanthum

Common Signal Grass Brachiaria brizantha

Brachiaria brizantha is native to Africa being found growing naturally in Sub-Saharan Africa from S 25º to N 12º, from the coast–7000 feet above sea level. in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya,  Zaire, Zambia, Ghana, Guinea, Côte D'Ivoire, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon , Ethiopia .
Brachiaria brizantha is widely naturalised throughout the humid and sub-humid tropics.

Morphological description
Brachiaria brizantha is a loosely tufted perennial with short rhizomes and erect or slightly decumbent stems 60–150 cm high (occasionally to 200 cm).  Leaves are flat, bright green up to 20 mm wide and up to 100 cm long. Brachiaria brizantha may be hairless or hairy.  Inflorescence is a racemose panicle consisting of 2–16 racemes, 4–20 cm long and elliptical spikelets 4–6 mm long, with no hairs or a few hairs at the tip.  Spikelets are normally a single row, with a purple, crescent-shaped rachis 1 mm wide.  Glumes and lower lemma are cartilaginous in texture.

Agricultural uses
Brachiaria brizantha has been planted as permanent pasture for grazing and cutting for fresh feed in many countries.  It is also planted as a pasture under plantation crops and as a ground cover for erosion control. An estimated 60 million hectares is under cultivation in Brazil for beef production.

Soil requirements
Brachiaria brizantha grows on a wide range of free-draining soils with pH 4–8, textures ranging from light to heavy and fertility from high to low, including acidic soils with high soluble Aluminium concentrations.  Tolerance to Magnesium varies among accessions.  Brachiaria brizantha shows a minor response to lime on acid soils. 
Brachiaria brizantha generally needs medium to high soil fertility to be productive. 

Brachiaria brizantha is best adapted to the humid and sub-humid tropics with 1,500–3,500 mm average annual rainfall, but will also grow in the more arid regions of the tropics with rainfall somewhat below 1,000 mm.  Brachiaria brizantha can withstand dry seasons of 3–6 months during which the leaf may remain green while other tropical species have browned off.  Brachiaria brizantha is not well adapted to wet poorly drained soils.

Brachiaria brizantha is a warm-season grass for the lowlands, altitudes to 2,000 m in the tropics but only to 1,000 m in higher latitudes.  Leaf is frost-sensitive, but the plant survives light frost.

Brachiaria brizantha is moderately shade tolerant compared with other tropical grasses.

Brachiaria brizantha can tolerate frequent heavy defoliation due to grazing or cutting. 

Brachiaria brizantha does recover after fire but annual burning is detrimental .

Establishment and management of sown pastures.
When establishing large areas with Brachiaria brizantha the only viable option is by means of seed.  Fresh seed of Brachiaria brizantha will not germinate due to physiological dormancy and must be stored for 6–9 months or acid-scarified before sowing.  Seed should be broadcast at 2–4 kg/ha onto a well-prepared seedbed and then lightly harrowed and rolled to incorporate.
In Brazil smallholders establish Brachiaria brizantha vegetatively from rooted tillers.

Brachiaria brizantha is very responsive to the application of nitrogen rich fertilisers.

Brachiaria brizantha shows a degree of allelopathy which helps prevent the invasion of weeds into planted pastures and often cause it to form pure stands in natural grassland. In trials shoots of Brachiaria brizantha which were incorporated into the soil were found to inhibit the growth of several plant species.

Environmental value
Brachiaria brizantha is favoured by grazing animals and the seed is sought after by birds, bees are attracted to the inflorescence for the pollen.

Landscape Value
Brachiaria brizantha is an attractive grass that could very well have use in landscape design

Michael Hickman
Landscape Design and Rehabilitation Specialist


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