M. Landon Marks
Regional Extension Agent
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Animal Science/Forages

Marks, M.L.*1, , Keyser, P. D.2, , Hancock, D. W.3, , Dillard, S. L.4,
1 Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Centre, AL, 35960
2 Professor and Director, Center for Native Grassland Management Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 37996
3 Professor and Extension Forage Agronomist, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602
4 Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Auburn University, Auburn University, AL, 36849

Native warm-season grasses are bunch grasses indigenous to North America that actively grow during the warm months of the year, April through September. Native grasslands once covered most of North America, providing forage and habitat for native animals. Prior to European settlement, native grasses were the dominant component of prairie grassland ecosystems. Naturalized grasses, which differ from native grasses, are those that originated outside a particular region but are able to exist in the wild. The majority of naturalized grasses in the southeastern U.S. were introduced to North America from Europe (e.g., tall fescue, orchardgrass), Africa (e.g., bermudagrass, crabgrass), or South America (e.g., dallisgrass, bahiagrass) as forage crops. In the Southeast, weather patterns have required livestock producers to reevaluate their grazing management plans. Introduced forage species, especially C3 grasses, are typically not well adapted to prolonged drought. In contrast, once established, native grasses’ deep root systems (as deep as 8-12 feet) and their C4 photosynthesis allow them to remain productive and survive prolonged drought events. These native grasses also have lower nutrient requirements and can grow in more acidic and less fertile soil conditions than most introduced forage species. Establishment and lack of knowledge of native warm season grasses has been the reservation of most livestock producers to implement these forages in their grazing plan. This publication is an in depth guide for livestock producers and wildlife enthusiasts to use when making management decisions regarding native warm season perennial grasses in the southeast. Chapters include: species selection and establishment planning; planting; follow-up during the seedling year; case histories from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia; Appendix with photos of young native warm season perennial plants as well as other warm season plants that could be mistaken for them during emergence. After published, 1,200 copies were distributed to Extension offices and NRCS offices throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee as well as being available online for free download. Each of the authors contributed to the educational portions of the publication as well as the distribution. Each author provided oversight of the case studies in their respective state and provided images for the publication.