Russell bermudagrass hay is proving to be a profitable crop for Rex Wilhite of Ringgold.
Wilhite has been growing this relatively new variety for about six years and says it produces more hay than any variety he’s tried.
The Russell variety was developed jointly by researchers in the LSU AgCenter and their counterparts in Alabama and was released in 1994. It has shown excellent performance and is widely used by Louisiana cattle producers for their hay production and pastures.
“I have to cut my fields about four times a year,” Wilhite said. “This variety is hardy and produces big leaves.”
Wilhite grows about 30 acres of this hay and said he will assist anyone who wants to buy sprigs to grow on their own. He recently won the Louisiana Hay Show, sponsored by the Louisiana Forage and Grassland Council, with his entry of this variety.
“It may not be as productive as some varieties, such as ‘Tifton 85’ or ‘Sumrall 007,’ but it is a grass that has good winter hardiness,” said Ed Twidwell, LSU AgCenter agronomist. “It also is adapted to all parts of the state.”
The feeding value of Russell is equal to most other varieties on the market, and it yields 20 percent to 40 percent more than common bermudagrass, he said.
Growers will benefit from Russell’s winter hardiness, because the variety produces an abundance of rhizomes for sprig plantings and also produces long hay that is suitable for planting, Twidwell said.
“This variety produces good first yields and is very well accepted by horse owners,” he said.
Wilhite said he follows the LSU AgCenter’s recommendations for growing this variety. Recommendations given by Twidwell include planting the Russell variety between March 1 and June 1. For planting with long hay, use about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of long hay per acre. The number of bales used will depend on the weight of the bales. Follow soil test recommendations for amounts and types of fertilizers to apply.
“Producers will probably need to clip the hayfield for weed control,” Twidwell said. “Russell is planted in the spring; therefore, producers normally can expect to produce one cutting of hay by the fall – or possibly do some light grazing with livestock. Production is dependent upon the environmental conditions after planting.”
Writer: A. Denise Coolman
(This article appeared in the winter 2003 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)