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Botanical Name: Bouteloua gracilis
Cultivars: Bad River, Hachita, Lovington, Native
Height: 12-18 Inches
Spread: 6-12 Inches
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7
Bouteloua gracilis: Blue Grama Grass is a major, warm-season grass found throughout the Great Plains. The plant is fairly short, reaching 10 to 20 inches with narrow basal leaves of 2 to 6 inches. Blue Grama grows in definite bunches and reproduces by tillering and by seed. Mature seed hands are curved, resembling a human eyebrow. Blue Grama can be found growing in association with Buffalograss, Western Wheatgrass, Neddlegrasses and some areas the Blue Grasses.
Bad River Blue Grama was a selected release from the North Dakota PMC, North Dakota Association of conservation districts and the North and South Dakota AES in 1996. Its origin is Haakon County in central South Dakota on the floodplain of the Bad River. The intended use is the Northern Great Plains, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3. Bad River establishes readily and has consistent plant performance compared to native harvest materials.
Hachita is a cultivar released by the Soil Conservation Service in New Mexico. It has outperformed other Blue Gramas in production (seed and forage), drought tolerance and ease of establishment under droughty conditions. Hachita performs well at higher elevations and has a minimum precipitation requirement of 10 inches.
Lovington is a good forage and seed producer that is well adapted to areas of 12 or more inches of precipitation in eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado and western Kansas. It was selected for its outstanding seedling vigor and forage production, and grows best on upland sites with medium to fine-textured soils. Seed maturing is very dependent on moisture availability at critical stages in the spring and early summer. Forage yield is higher than other Blue Grama varieties and it is free of diseases.
Growing & Maintenance Tips
As with all native grasses, proper ground preparation is one of the most important considerations. The seedbed should be firm but not solid; cultivation to kill the roots of cool-season grasses is essential. Planting may be done by either drilling or broadcasting, with the seed being covered with no more than ¼ to ½ inches deep at a rate of 1 to 3 pounds PLS/acre. Seeding in late spring is recommended in the Great Plains, somewhat earlier further south. In the Southeast, seeding should be done during the period from June 15 to July 15. Mulching and irrigation is recommended on harsh sites. Soil tests should be made to test the soils for deficiencies Blue Grama will tolerate soils that are low in nutrients better than acidic conditions. Planting should be done by a native grass seed drill. In western areas plant Blue Grama in a sorghum cover crop (in stubble or in with the crop itself).
Once the grass is established, it is very palatable to the livestock all year long. Since growing points are at or near the ground surface, the grass withstands fairly close grazing. For best yields, defer grazing every 2 to 3 years during the growing season. It cures well on stem, making it a good grass for grazing during the dormant season. Renovation of sodbound stands is also recommended. Weeds can be controlled by use of herbicides, mowing or controlled grazing. Seed yields can reach 150 to 200 pounds per acre under irrigation and cultivation.
Blue Grama grows as a bunch grass, forming open sod mats. As it matures and is grazed on by animals, the bunches grow together and form a thick sod.