Native warm season grasses (NWSG’s) are deep-rooted indigenous C4 type grasses that grow during the warm months of the year. C4 grasses have a higher photosynthetic potential than C3 cool season grasses and can withstand harsher environmental conditions, such as drought, carbon dioxide limitations, soil nitrogen deficiencies and, as the name implies, high temperatures.
Indigenous NWSG’s are common species in our threatened southern longleaf pine ecosystem, an ecosystem that has been reduced, by man-caused destruction, to remnants of its original range. NWSG’s provide many benefits to wildlife, including forage, bedding, and escape cover for deer and cottontail rabbits; nesting, protective cover, insect population increases, and seed necessary for game bird species, like quail and turkey, and non-game song birds, such as blue grosbeak, indigo bunting, yellow breasted chat, and the eastern meadowlark.
NWSG’s can be grazed and hayed for livestock production and crude protein can reach 16 - 17%, although 8 - 12 % is the norm during optimum harvest conditions. Proper species selection and small changes in hay cutting or grazing pattern changes can allow livestock and wildlife to mutually exist, benefit, and thrive from NWSG plantings. Silvipasture systems in many cases present perfect opportunities to incorporate NWSG plantings into your operation in order to optimize timber, wildlife, and livestock production.
NWSG establishment can be slow and usually takes approximately two years. Once established, various management techniques consisting of prescribed burning, disking, mowing, herbicide applications, or some combination thereof, will be necessary to maintain these productive deep rooted grasses.