Crabgrass

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crab grass

Scientific Name

Digitaria sp.

Short Description

Crabgrass is a high quality summer annual forage that is well adapted to the southern U.S.  Although most often regarded as a weed, it is a valuable source of forage in many grazing and haying systems.

Description

Crabgrass is generally thought of as a weed, but many cattlemen in the southern regions of the United States consider it a high producing, high quality forage in a double cropping system behind small grain winter annual forages such as wheat, rye, and triticale.  Crabgrass is a summer annual forage which is propagated by seed, either volunteer or planted.  Crabgrass is adapted to many soil types but grows best on sandy and clay loam soils with good drainage.  Crabgrass can be utilized by either grazing or haying.  Grazing of crabgrass should begin when the plants reach 4 to 6 inches tall.  Haying should occur on a schedule to minimize the production of seedheads since forage quality is best before allowing seedhead production. Soil fertility is critical in maximizing both forage quality and quantity.  Phosphorous and Potassium levels should be applied according to soil test and applications of as much as 150 lbs. of actual nitrogen in split applications can be applied throughout the summer to maintain production.  Rainfall and fertility determine stocking rates. With sufficient moisture and nitrogen, stocking rates of 800 to 1200 lbs of liveweight are possible.  Stockers have gained in excess of 1.5 lbs per day in suitable conditions.

Taxonomy of Crabgrass

 Kingdom  Plantae
 Subkingdom  Tracheobionta
 Superdivision  Spermatophyta
 Division  Magnoliophyta
 Class  Lilosida
 Subclass  Commelinidae
 Order  Cyperales
 Family  Poaceae
 Genus  Digitaria
 Species

 sanguinalis (large crabgrass)
 ciliaris (hairy crabgrass)

Plant Characteristics of Crabgrass

Height 6 to 24 inches
Growth habit sodforming
Bloom period mid to late summer
Sun requirement full sun
Leaf foilage color green
Minimum soil temperature for germination 55ºF
Soil pH range 4.5 to 8.0
Planting Rate 3 to 5 PLS lbs per acre
Planting Depth surface to¼ inch
Planting season spring to early summer

Uses of Crabgrass

Livestock

Crabgrass is an excellent high quality, high producing annual forage for many classes of livestock. It can be used in both haying and grazing systems.  Most often used as a double crop forage behind small grains in the southern U.S. 

Soil Erosion

Crabgrass is occasionally used as a temporary vegetation for the control of erosion on stream banks, pond dams, and sand hills when permanent vegetation is not feasible.

Commercially Available Cultivars of Crabgrass

Common

Common generally includes the native harvesting of crabgrass biotypes specific to the region the seed was harvested.

'Red River'

'Red River' was developed from a hairy crabgrass species Digitaria ciliaris at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK. 'Red River' was selected and released based on its improved forage production and forage quality.

'Quick-N-Big'

'Quick-N-Big' was developed by R. L. Dalrymple. Dalrymple's work at the Noble Foundation led to the release of 'Red River' and since his retirement he has released 'Quick-N-Big'. Dalrymple indicates it germinates faster and grows quicker therefore getter faster forage production. It is similar in crude protein and same adaptation area.