Description of Brachiaria grasses
A brief description on morphology, climatic and soil requirements is given for five Brachiaria cultivars. These are Signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk), Mulato II (Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulato II), and Beard grass (Brachiaria brizantha cvs. Piata, Xaraes and MG4).
Signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk)
Signal grass was collected in open grasslands in Uganda and introduced in Australia in 1930 and was selected for its high dry matter yields. It is low-growing, erector decumbent, moderately hairy leaves of 7-20 mm wide and 5-25 cm long. Leaves arise from trailing stolons that root at the nodes. Seed head have 2-7 racemes, 1-5 cm long, borne on an axis up to 10 cm long.
It is adapted to infertile soil and withstands heavy grazing and trampling. The grass can tolerate shading and is suitable for soil erosion control.Yield of 5-8 t/ha dry matter per year have been recorded.
Signal grass cv. Basilisk
Mulato II (Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulato II)
Mulato II is a product of three way crosses between B. ruziziensis, B. decumbens and B. brizantha.It has semi-erect growth habit and can grow upto 2.7 m tall. The stems are cylindrical and the leaves have intense green colour. The inflorescence is a panicle with 4 to 6 racemes with double rows of spikelets. It has short hairs on the leaf sheaf and has white/cream stigma.
Mulato II is high in quality with crude protein (CP) of upto 16% and digestibility of 60-66%. It grows well from sea level to 1800 m above sea level, with annual rainfall of above 700 mm but is tolerant to prolonged period of drought of up to 4 months.It is adapted to many soil types ranging from sands to clays but does not tolerate poorly drained soils. In Kenya, Mulato II is most suited for growing in the coastal lowlands because in other parts it is suscetiple to red spider mites attack. The grass is established by seeds although it can also be propagated vegetatively with stem segments. Yields of 6-12 t/ha dry matter per year have been recorded in Kenya.
Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulato II
Beard grass (Brachiaria brizantha )
Brachiaria brizanthais also known as palisade grass, palisade signal grass and signal grass. It is loosely tufted perennial,erector slightly decumbentstems. Leaves are flat, bright green up to 20 mm wide and up to 100 cm long. It is highly nutritious and CPranges from 7-16% and digestibility of 51-75%.
It grows on a wide range of soils with pH4–8, inmedium to high soil fertility. It can be grown in altitudes of up to 2,000 m and in areas receiving annual rainfall of around 1,000 mm. It can withstand dry seasons of 3-6 months.The characteristics of three Brachiaria brizantha cultivars; Piatã, MG4 and Xaraes recommended for diffent regions are described below.
The cv. Piatã is highly productive upto 2000 m above sea level with annual precipitation of 700 mm and above. It is drought and cold tolerant. It is suited to soils of average fertility and can be cultivated in sandy soils.
Brachiaria brizanthacv. MG4 originated from tropical Africa and was introduced in Brazil in 1995 through Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). It can grow in low rainfall (<800 mm) due to its deep root system and is productive even in low soil fertility.