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Managing Kentucky bluegrass in Ozark pastures

Managing Kentucky bluegrass in Ozark pastures

Optimizing pasture productivity with Kentucky bluegrass

By Blake Jackson

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is a valuable cool-season grass in Ozark pastures. Its early spring growth provides much-needed forage for livestock, and its tolerance of close grazing makes it a resilient pasture component. However, proper management is crucial to ensure Kentucky bluegrass doesn't become overly dominant, thereby hindering overall pasture productivity.

Identification of Kentucky bluegrass is straightforward. Look for the telltale narrow leaves with a distinctive V-shape and pointed tips, resembling a boat or canoe. These blades typically range from 1 to 7 inches in length. Additionally, Kentucky bluegrass is among the first to produce seedheads in the spring, characterized by open panicles measuring 2 to 8 inches long.

While Kentucky bluegrass offers early season grazing benefits, its inherent limitations must be considered. The grass's short stature and narrow leaves translate to lower overall forage yield compared to taller fescues or orchardgrass. A pasture dominated by Kentucky bluegrass can be an indicator of overgrazing and a potential sign of reduced overall forage production.

Eradicating established Kentucky bluegrass is a challenging task. A more practical approach involves proactive management through interseeding. Overseeding desirable forages like tall fescue, orchardgrass, or brome during the fall season is the recommended strategy. This timing capitalizes on Kentucky bluegrass's naturally slow fall growth, creating a window for the establishment of more productive forage species.

Regular monitoring of pasture composition is essential. If Kentucky bluegrass appears to be taking over, plan to interseed in the forages this coming fall. This proactive approach will help ensure a healthy balance in your Ozark pastures, promoting both the early grazing benefits of Kentucky bluegrass and the long-term productivity of your grazing land.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-jacqueline-nix.jpg

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