Sod-Forming Pasture Options
Let’s talk about grasses that meet very specific needs...
Needs: Sod-Forming Grasses
Examples: Kentucky Bluegrass, Smooth Brome, Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue (short rhizomes)
Various grass species and varieties have different growth habits. Some are rhizomatous or sod forming. You can see in the picture below that rhizomatous grasses spread from the original plant through underground structures that send up other plants. This is a very effective method for the grass to spread throughout an area providing solid ground cover, much like a lawn.
What are the benefits?
Since sod-forming grasses create a dense stand with the rhizomes safely underground, they are very traffic tolerant. This is useful for areas that have a lot of mechanical traffic as well as livestock traffic. These types of grasses generally have low growing points on the plant making them tolerant of very close grazing. For those of you with horses, this may be what you need since they can chew stands down very low when given the chance. These sod forming grasses can bounce back from that when given time to recover from their rhizomes. On the cattle side of things, set stock paddocks can benefit from having sod-forming grasses. These species can recover from frequent grazing. This is the same reason lawns can handle being mowed regularly during the growing season.
What are the downsides?
With all of those benefits, you may be wondering “Why don’t I use sod-forming grasses in all of my pastures?” There are a few negatives to these grasses. With their low growing habit, many of these species will not get very tall. This makes them difficult for mechanical harvest and also not very high yielding. As more durable grasses, they also do not provide very high forage quality for grazing.
Sod-forming grasses do have their place if the benefits outweigh the negatives for your situation!