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Commodities: Field Crops: Forages: FAQs

What about growing switchgrass in Georgia?

Switchgrass is native warm season perennial grass that can be very productive in Georgia. It has received a lot of attention as a potential bioenergy crop (either via lignocellulosic fermentation or gasification/direct combustion). However, switchgrass can also be an excellent plant to incorporate into wildlife habitat improvement zones. It can be used as a forage crop in Georgia, but more high quality forage per acre can be produced more economically from introduced warm season perennial grasses.

The University of Georgia now has a website that is solely dedicated to the management and use of switchgrass in Georgia. This website covers its use as a forage, bioenergy, and wildlife habitat crop. There are also a significant number of other publications that are helpful for those who intend to use switchgrass. The USDA's Plant Materials Center in Americus has some great fact sheets on switchgrass (and other native warm season perennial grasses), including some recommended varieties. Click on: Publications, then look for Plant Fact Sheets for links to each individual species. Here’s the direct link to one on switchgrass: Plant Sheet: Switchgrass. Note: I recommend 5-6 lbs of PLS/acre (instead of what they recommend as 6-10 lbs) and seeded at a depth of ¼ to ½ an inch. Do not apply N fertilizer during establishment to prevent weeds from out competing the switchgrass seedlings. Establishment and weed control is discussed in the PMC’s fact sheet mentioned above. Additional information on switchgrass management (particularly for wildlife habitat) can be found in a very good publication put out by the University of Tennessee (PB1746). If bioenergy is the intended use, then there are some slightly different management considerations. ATTRA has published a good fact sheet on how to grow switchgrass for bioenergy. It is located here: IP302.

It should be noted that the agronomic practices that are appropriate for switchgrass production in Georgia are still relatively unknown. Research projects are in early stages of development and modifications to these management recommendations will, no doubt, be made in the future.

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