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Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum Dactyloides) is a native perennial bunchgrass and a distant relative of corn. It is a long-lived (to 50 years), warm-season species native to most of the eastern half of the United States. It ranges in height from 4 to 8 feet. The leaf blades are flat, long (12 to 30 inches) and wide (0.4 to 1.2 inches), with a well-defined midrib. It reproduces vegetatively from thick, knotty, rhizome-like structures called proaxes. The spikes are 6 to 10 inches long and are made up of one to several spikes. Similar to corn, eastern gamagrass has separate male and female flowers (monoecious). But unlike corn, each gamagrass spike contains both male and female flowers. Male flowers occupy the top three-fourths of the spike and female flowers the bottom one-fourth.
Seed is produced from June to September, resulting in uneven maturation.
The indigenous U.S. range of eastern gamagrass extends from central Texas to southeastern Nebraska and central Iowa and east to the Atlantic Ocean. Eastern gamagrass’s range extends to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Gamagrass flourishes under dryland conditions where annual precipitation exceeds 35 inches (Dewald et al., 2006). Respectable forage production can be achieved on good soils in regions with 25 inches of annual precipitation. It can be grown in areas with less annual precipitation on irrigated and subirrigated land.
Gamagrass does best in well drained to somewhat poorly drained soils.
The major use of eastern gamagrass is as a forage crop. It is highly productive as intensively managed pasture, hay, and silage. Eastern gamagrass can be developed into an important component of forage for beef and dairy production systems (Dewald et al., 2006). The average daily gain for steers grazing eastern gamagrass in the Piedmont region of North Carolina was approximately twofold greater than steers grazing bermudagrass. However, eastern gamagrass requires more grazing management than bermudagrass.