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Bermuda grass is a branching plant which puts out creeping stems or runners that have been kr
to grow over 12 feet a single season. At short intervals along the stems nodęs or joints form. Wherever these nodes touch the ground roots grow and in a few days a young plant is formed which is independent of the mother plant. When this grass is compared with grasses similar in appearance it will be noted that two to four leaves grow from each node of the Bermuda grass while the others support but one. Truly, an average of THREE BLADES OF GRASS GROW WHERE BUT ONE GREW BEFORE.
Pasture.—This grass is without doubt the best pasture grass grown in the Southern States, and is especially adapted to the climatic conditions of Oklahoma. It will grow on almost any kind of soil, but, like any other plant, will produce the best yields on rich ground. Bermuda grass will not grow in cold weather, and turns greenish brown in winter, but with a minimum rainfall will remain green in Oklahoma from April to October.
Lawns. It has no equal in the South for lawns, as it will continue to grow when the heat is the greatest, provided it is supplied with water occasionally. A dry spell will not kill it, simply retard the growth. It will not do well in the shade and should not be planted beneath trees.
Feed.—The chemical composition of Bermuda hay shows it to rank very high as a cattle food in comparison with other hays. This point will be considered in detail in Part II of this bulletin.
Prevents Washing.–Lands well covered by Bermuda grass will not wash to any extent as the thick mat of grass and roots form a covering which is but little affected by running water.
Kind of Soil Necessary.-As stated in a previous paragraph Bermuda grass does well even on poor soil. It will grow on soils which are so exhausted that they will no longer produce other crops at a profit. It will do best on a rich bottom alluvial soil. It is better adapted to sandy lands than to stiff clays, but will grow in the latter if it once gets a good stand.
Planted on sandy soil Bermuda grass is valuable in preventing wind action, but it is necessary to get the grass set in light shifting soil early in the spring so that a good growth may be obtained before the dry season.
Grown on Alkali Soils.--Bermuda grass does not seem to be as easily killed by alkali as other crops. This Station has an excellent pasture of it on land which contains so much alkali that other crops cannot be grown there.
Preparation of Soil and Planting.—The best method of preparing the soil is similar to that followed for corn or cotton, and the method of planting similar to that employed in putting in potatoes or tobacco. Have the land as clean and rich as possible and in good mechanical condition. Fall and winter plowing and frequent harrowings together with a dressing of manure will be found worth while.
Seed Not Satisfactory.—Experience has shown that Bermuda grass seed is low in germinating power and expensive, costing from 50c to $1.25 per pound. The plants from seed are very tender and grow slowly, so they are easily injured and choked back or killed by weeds. The grass from seed freezes back in winter and often does not begin to grow until May. Small tracts or lawns may be seeded when roots or pieces of sod are not to be obtained. The seed may be sown broadcast or, preferably, in drills.
Planting from Sod.—The most practical method of planting Bermuda grass is to set out portions of the sod on the prepared land early in March and not later than June tenth. The earlier the planting the better, provided there is no frost in the ground.
The following method has been recommended by this Station in a previous bulletin,* which is now out of print:
Method “A”.—After the land has been prepared furrows about six inches deep should be made with a single shovel plow. The furrows
*Okla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 70; 1906.
should be about six inches apart and pieces of sod about two inches square dropped every eighteen inches. Cover these, either by using the foot as the sod is dropped, or a hoe or a double-shovel plow. The depth of covering will depend upon the condition of the soil; if it is dry a thicker covering may be given than if it is wet. It will not be advisable to cover with a harrow. The small amount of labor thus saved will be more than offset by the delay in getting a good stand of grass.
When but a limited amount of Bermuda grass roots, from which the dirt has been shaken, is available, the preparation of the soil should be the same. But the roots must be planted with more care than the sod, and the soil must be well packed about them with a roller, or tamped. It is desirable to have a little of the root exposed to the air. This is not necessary when the sod is planted; it may be completely covered.
The following methods have also been suggested:*
Method “B”.-In the fall while breaking the land with a turning plow, drop small pieces of sod in every third furrow behind the plow, one to two feet distant, the next furrow slice being made to cover these. Then sow rye on the land and in the spring graze down to aid in removing the shade from the crop and to firm the land. Horses and sheep should not be thus grazed while the grass is setting, because they bite off too many of the creeping stems and thus prevent the grass from spreading.
Method “C”.—In the light furrows made between the rows of corn when ready to be laid by, drop several pieces of the sod one to two feet apart and cover with a plank leveler, such as may be run between the rows of corn.
Method “D”.—In making a new pasture where the land is more or less covered with broom sage, sassafras, etc., pieces of sod may be dropped into shallow holes made with a hoe and the earth pressed down with the foot. The holes should be from three to six feet apart. The closer they are the more rapidly will the grass get possession of the land. Help the grass along as much as possible by cutting down the sassafras and other objectionable growth, or grazing according to conditions and the season of the year. This method is adapted to the planting of large areas of run down land when it is desired to change them into pastures at a minimum expenditure of labor.
Hay.-Bermuda grass should be cut for hay just before the tops break out, because after the plant blossoms the lower leaves fall off and the upper portion dries. The grass should be cured the same day that it is mowed. On account of the fineness of the grass it is necessary to use a fine fork for handling it.
*Grasses, Shaw, p. 121.
In our experiments with Bermuda grass we made a cutting as often as possible, but on a large scale the number of cuttings will of course be influenced by the condition of the grass and the weather. Certainly two cuttings may be made, and in some cases as many as seven or eight. Each crop will run from half a ton to over two tons per acre.
Improving by Cultivation and Fertilizer.—After four or five seasons Bermuda grass may become so thickly sod bound as to hinder further growth. Then it is advisable to revive the plants by plowing and harrowing. Follow the harrowing with a drag or roller to smooth off the surface. An occasional tearing up of the pasture will materially improve the quality and quantity of the grass.
It is perfectly reasonable to assume that in a few years after planting the grass will be improved by an application of fertilizer. For this purpose a dressing of nitrate of soda is suggested, eighty to a hundred pounds per acre should be ample. This may be previously mixed with dry rich soil to facilitate thorough distribution.
Bermuda grass does not enrich the soil in the same way that clover does, but its roots and the mat-like character of the sod are favorable to earth worms. It is a well known fact that earth worms appreciably improve a soil in which they live. The improvement on the composition of the soil effected by Bermuda grass is caused by humus added. That is to say, it aids in the formation of more plant food through the effect of its decaying leaves, etc., upon the insoluble mineral matter in the ground.
The data reported here was obtained from a series of analyses
So far as possible, the grass was cut every Saturday afternoon
The following tables show the percentage composition of the Ber-
7.23 11.98 24.77 47.04
7.45 II.19 26.91
7.22 I 2.16 26.78
6.56 II.51 25.85 46.70 1.98
4702 6.29 8.02
10.81 25.10 47.90
6.06 8.22 10.31 25.85 47.67 1.89
8.92 10.03 26.64 46.33
26.24 48.45 1.68
6.65 7.99 8.75 25.24 48.57
9.36 24.49 49.73