Cenchrus setiger


Scientific name

Synonyms

Cenchrus setigerus Vahl
Cenchrus barbatus Schumach.
Cenchrus ciliaris var. setigerus (Vahl) Maire & Weiler
Cenchrus montanus Nees ex Steud.

Family/tribe

Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Panicoideae tribe: Paniceae.

Common names

birdwood grass, cow sandbur, (English);  anjan, mode dhaman grass , motha dhaman, kata -dhaman, kala-dhaman (India).

Morphological description

Tufted, non-rhizomatous (or shortly rhizomatous), erect or ascending perennial to 60 cm (rarely to >1 m) tall, similar to smaller types of C. ciliaris .  Leaf blades linear, 15-30 cm long, and 4-6 mm wide.  Panicle a green, maturing to light straw-coloured (mostly African origin) or dark purple (mostly Indian origin), false spike, 1.5-9 cm long and ca. 1 cm wide.  Seed units or fascicles are inserted along a zig-zag axis, each bur-like fascicle comprising a single spikelet or cluster of 2 or 3 spikelets, 3-4.5 mm long, surrounded by an involucre of short, stiff teeth 3.5-5 mm long.  180,000-350,000 seed units/kg.

Distribution

Native to:
Africa:  Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt.
Asia:  Southern Iran, Yemen, India, Pakistan.
Open dry bush and grassland, usually on alkaline soils, sometimes on heavy black clays with impeded drainage.

Naturalized elsewhere in dry tropics and subtropics.

Uses/applications

Primarily for permanent pasture.  Makes useful hay, but low yields.  Valuable standover feed in low-rainfall areas.  Some value for erosion control in arid and semi-arid land.

Ecology

Soil requirements

Prefers light-textured, sandy soils;  adapted to a wider range of soils than is C. ciliaris .   Often found on gravelly areas and alluvial flats, and sometimes on heavy black clays with impeded drainage.  Occurs frequently on alkaline soils.  Seedlings more tolerant of salinity than those of C. ciliaris .

Moisture

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Adapted to arid and semi-arid climates (annual rainfall as low as 200 mm) with a long dry season;  responds quickly to light rains.  More drought tolerant than C. ciliaris .  Responds well even to light rain when temperatures are adequate for growth.  No record of flood tolerance, although some types originate from flooded land.

Temperature

No records of temperature response, but probably similar to that of C. ciliaris , with optimum growth from 30-35ºC.  It is extremely tolerant of heat and drought but also survives frost.  Grows from sea level to 500-800 m asl between about 30ºN and S.

Light

No record of shade tolerance.  Few trees or taller species in normal habitat.

Reproductive development

An early flowering short day plant.  Flowers November to May in the southern hemisphere subtropics.  Can grow and set seed freely despite limited rainfall .  Flowering can be initiated within 11 days of germination and seed produced within a month, more often 6-8 weeks.

Defoliation

Once established, withstands grazing well.  Best cut every 30 days at about 10cm.  Once established, can stand heavy grazing, even by sheep.  Should be allowed to set seed every two to three years to thicken the stand.

Fire

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Fire removes the dry top growth, but plants recover well after rain.

Agronomy

Establishment

Germination can improve for up to 2 years after harvest.  Can be aerially sown into ashes or through modified cereal drills into a prepared seedbed.  Hand broadcasting is suitable for small areas.  Seedlings vigorous.

Fertiliser

Responds to nitrogen and phosphorous.  Uneconomical to fertilise in semi-arid and arid areas.  Pastures remain productive for many years unless overgrazed.

Compatibility (with other species)

No record, but will always compete for moisture in its normal environment.

Companion species

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Grasses:  Could be planted with lower-growing Cenchrus ciliaris , cvv. American, Gayndah and West Australian.
Legumes:  Stylosanthes hamata , S. humilis , Vigna aconiitifolia, V. radiata, V. trilobata , Cyamopsis tetragonoloba.

Pests and diseases

No major pests or diseases.  Susceptible to cenchrus bunchy shoot (CBS) phytoplasma .

Ability to spread

Spreads slowly by seed, needing incorporation into the soil by animal treading for establishment.

Weed potential

Considered a serious weed of watercourses in Western Australia.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

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Has high feed value during the pre-flowering stage, but much lower during the dry season.  9-19% CP and 65% IVDMD at early-bloom stage and IVDMD 40-50 % during the dry season.

Palatability/acceptability

Moderately palatable and readily accepted by stock (grazed in preference to Cynodon plectostachyus ).

Toxicity

No toxicity reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

Yields mostly from 1-1.5 t/ha (but ranging from 400-2,000 kg/ha) depending on growing conditions.  Grows longer into the season and produces higher yields than C. ciliaris cv. West Australian.

Animal production

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In desert areas, carries 1 sheep to 2.5-6 ha.  With fertiliser in semi-arid areas, can raise live-weight gain from 30-50 kg/ha to 70-115 kg/ha, and further with mineral supplements.

Genetics/breeding

Pseudogamous apomict (pollination necessary for endosperm formation and seed set).  2n = 4x = 36, and 2n = 54.  Rarely 2n = 34, 37.  Can hybridise with C. ciliaris .

Seed production

Seeds heavily.  Seed can be hand picked or harvested mechanically with cereal harvesters or special grass -seed harvesters.

Herbicide effects

No information, but probably similar to those for C. ciliaris :
"Can be controlled using a combination of glyphosate and ammonium sulphate, possibly in repeat applications.  Seedlings can be controlled using the grass -selective herbicide, fluazifop-p-butyl or dicamba, 2,4-D, 3,6-dichloropicolinic acid, triclopyr, tebuthiuron, or hexazinone.  Older stands, particularly freshly cut material can be at least reduced using hexazinone or tebuthiuron."

Strengths

  • More drought -hardy than C.ciliaris.
  • Palatable.
  • Easier to sow than C. ciliaris (non-fluffy seed).
  • Quick to respond after rain.

Limitations

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  • Low production.
  • Tendency to weediness in some environments.

Other comments

    

Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp. 75 - 76. (Longman: London and New York).

Internet links

Cultivars

Cultivars

Country/date released

Details

'Black Kolukattai' India From Madras.  Dark seed head.
'Marwar Dhaman' (CAZRI-175) India Institutional collection.  Well adapted in arid (Thar Desert) and semi-arid regions of India.  Excellent for grazing due to thin stem and leafy foliage.
'Pusa yellow Anjan' India No information available.

Promising accessions

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Promising accessions

Country

Details

CPI 17655 (Q 3466) Australia From Kenya.  Very persistent in semi-arid areas.