Panic grass in southern Western Australia

Page last updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2018 - 8:40am

Panic grass is a highly palatable, leafy, warm season bunch grass that is drought tolerant and responds rapidly to rain following a dry spell. It has demonstrated very good persistence and biomass production on sandy soils, including deep pale sands in both the northern agricultural region and south coast of Western Australia (WA), but does not tolerate waterlogging or flooding.

Features

  • tufted, highly palatable, leafy grass
  • moderate to high drought tolerance with excellent persistence through extended dry periods
  • good spring growth
  • able to quickly respond to rain, even after extended hot, dry periods
  • requires fertile conditions for good performance
  • well adapted to sandy soils in northern agricultural region and on south coast
  • does not tolerate waterlogging or flooding.

Background

The panic grasses (Megathyrsus maximus formerly Panicum maximum) are one of the major sown sub-tropical grasses and are widely used in South America, Japan, and India as well as eastern Australia. M. maximus is a diverse species as it includes both the tall (up to 4 metres) tropical Guinea grasses and the shorter sub-tropical panic grasses which are the type of interest for southern WA.

Panic grasses have demonstrated good potential in both the northern agricultural region and south coast of WA, with excellent persistence through extended dry periods and high production when conditions are favourable. They are palatable, well received by cattle and sheep and often preferentially grazed. They have been widely sown in the NAR (>60 000 hectares) and the area of suitable soils is >900 000 hectares (ha), while on the south coast there are relatively few commercial paddocks, but the potential area is >500 000ha.

Description

  • moderately tall, leafy, tufted grass (0.8-1.8 metres)
  • leaf sheath is often hairy
  • flower heads are an open, branched panicle.
close up of panic grass
Close-up of panic grass seed head

Contact information

Geoff Moore
+61 (0)8 9368 3293