Digitaria eriantha / Smutsfinger grass – Irene

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Digitaria eriantha – Smutsfinger – Irene / Tip Top / Goats Fodder / Horse Grazing / Cattle Forage / Sheep Grazing / Haymaking!

Digitaria erianthaSmutsfinger – Irene / Tip Top
Summer Pasture Grass / Summer Grazing

Sowing Rate: 8kg per hectare.
Planting Time: September to March (Southern Hemisphere.)
Digitaria eriantha / SmutsfingerIrene / Tip Top is best used on a rotational basis or mixed with other grasses, because it doesn’t do well if overgrazed. Very sensitive to overgrazing!
Common names:

common finger grass, digit grass, pangola grass, woolly finger grass (English); digitaria (French); pangolagras (German); pangola, pasto pangola (Spanish)

Uses / Applications:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) is used for grazing, hay or silage. Suitable for cut-and-carry. Stoloniferous types provide good ground cover for soil conservation .

Soil requirements:

About 70% of collections of Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) come from sands and sandy loam soils, the remainder from loams, clay loams and clays. Seeding types tend to be restricted to sandy soils in their native habitat, possibly because seedlings do not establish readily on heavier soils without disturbance. Both tufted and stoloniferous seeding types are mostly used on sandy soils in cultivation, although they will grow on clay soils, once established.

Moisture:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) is found in areas with average annual rainfall ranging from 300-1,300 mm, although mostly from 450-800 mm. All types are very drought tolerant. Seeding varieties are mostly used in areas with rainfall from about 750-1,000 mm.

Temperature:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) extends from about 14-34ºS, and from near sea level in South Africa to 2,250 m asl in Lesotho. Warm to hot summers, and cold winters, often with frosts, are experienced over most of this distribution. Average annual temperatures are mostly of the order of 16-24ºC.

Light:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) is generally considered to have low shade tolerance.

Fertiliser:

D. eriantha is tolerant of, but unproductive under low fertility conditions. ‘Pangola’ responds well to nitrogen, giving linear increases up to 300-350 kg/ha N. However, other types also respond well to improved nitrogen fertility, but perhaps not to the same extent as ‘Pangola’. 100-300 kg/ha N should be applied in split applications according to needs and environmental conditions, rather than in a single application at the beginning of the season. Levels of other nutrients, particularly phosphorus, should also be monitored.

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Compatibility (with other species):

Tussock types combine well with other species, but stoloniferous types can be very competitive and suppress companion legumes.

Companion species:

Grasses: Usually not planted with other grasses.
Legumes: Different legumes are sown with D. eriantha depending on the genotype of the grass and the environment involved. In the wet tropics, vigorous stoloniferous species such as Desmodium heterophyllum and Arachis pintoi are successful with the pangola types. Aeschynomene falcata , Chamaecrista rotundifolia , Lotononis bainesii , Trifolium repens, T. subterraneum are more appropriate companions for the sub-tropically adapted tufted types.

Dry matter production:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) – DM yields vary with fertility, genotype, and environmental and management conditions, but normally range from about 10-20 t/ha, and under ideal conditions may exceed 30 t/ha.

Animal production:

Digitaria eriantha (Smutsfinger) is an excellent species for beef and milk production. N fertilized pasture can produce >1,000 kg/ha/yr LWG and 6,000 kg/ha/yr milk, with stocking rates of 2.5-7.5 animals/ha.

Strengths:
  • Adapted to light-textured soils and red loam soils
  • Persistent, productive
  • Drought-tolerant
  • Tolerant of moderate levels of exchangeable aluminium
  • Tolerant of fire
  • Tolerates short-duration heavy grazing by cattle and sheep
  • Contains low levels of soluble oxalate.
    Limitations:
  • Tolerates short-duration heavy grazing by cattle and sheep
  • Contains low levels of soluble oxalate.

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