Panicum trichocladum

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Scientific name

Panicum trichocladum Hack. ex K. Schum.
Panicum maximum  Jacq.

This Fact Sheet refers specifically to the creeping or stoloniferous types in the agamic complex of the Maximae Panicoideae, which includes Panicum maximum , P. trichocladum  and P. infestum, and intermediate types P. maximum x P. trichocladum , and P. maximum x P. infestum.  The common varieties/cultivars within the creeping type are variously referred to in the literature as P. maximum and P. trichocladum .


Synonyms for Panicum trichocladum :
Panicum simbense Mez
Panicum protractum Peter
Panicum parviflorum Peter
Panicum trichocladum K. Schum. var. parviflorum Peter

Synonyms for Panicum maximum :
Megathyrsus maximus (Jacq.) B.K. Simon & S.W.L. Jacobs
Urochloa maxima (Jacq.) R.D.Webster

(see Panicum maximum ) for other synonyms.


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

Common names

creeping guinea grass (Australia);  capim aruana (Brazil);  donkey grass , mkoko, ukoka (Tanzania).

Morphological description

Shortly rhizomatous, fine stemmed perennial, mostly to 1 m tall (rarely to 1.5 m) with scrambling, decumbent, much branched culms 0.2–3 m long, developing nodal roots when touching or close to the ground.  Leaf blades light green to green, narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate, 5–20 (–30) cm long, (4–) 10–15 (–18) mm wide.  Panicle ovate , 6–20 cm long, moderately branched;  spikelets (2.2–) 2.5–3 mm long.


Native to:
Africa:  Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Ethiopia (south), Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan (south), Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Occurs in light forests and forest edges, in bush and along stream banks.


Used for permanent pasture if fertility maintained.  Provides good shade-tolerant ground cover, making it useful for agroforestry including pasture under coconuts.  Also useful for soil conservation and bench development in terraced contour cultivation systems.


Soil requirements

Often found on sandy or gravely soils, but also on loams and clay loams.  Adapted to most well-drained, friable, fertile soils.


Occurs mostly in areas receiving >900 mm/yr, and sometimes with a pronounced dry season of up to 7 months.  Adapted to areas receiving >2,000 mm/yr.


Occurs from sea level to 2,300 m.  Good cool season growth in some genotypes.


Some varieties recognised for ability to grow in shaded conditions, e.g. ‘Embu’.

Reproductive development

No information available.


Not as tolerant of very heavy grazing as many other stoloniferous grasses.


No data, but probably similar to P. maximum and not adversely affected by fire in the long term.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Germination should be tested, since seed may not reach maximum germination until up to 18 months after harvest.  Dormancy can be overcome by removal of glumes from fresh seed.  Seed can be drilled or broadcast at 2–3 kg/ha.  Being a small seed, it should be planted at no more than 1 cm deep.  Rolling after sowing improves germination and establishment.  This group can also be established from slips, stolon plantlets, or pieces of stolon with several nodes, planted on the contour every 0.5–0.6 m in rows 1.25–1.5 m apart.


Establishment fertiliser is necessary on infertile soils, using 20–40 kg/ha P, and about 50 kg/ha N if limited cultivation prior to planting.  Maintenance fertiliser is needed for pure grass swards especially in cut-and-carry systems.  Inadequate N will lead to weakening of the stand and invasion by less desirable species.  Maintenance dressings of 200–400 kg/ha/yr of N are required to promote healthy, productive stands on less fertile soils.  Soils with pH <5 require addition of lime to bring pH up to 5.5–6.

Compatibility (with other species)

Combines well with twining legumes under light grazing, and more stoloniferous legumes under intensive management.  Can be grown successfully under open forest or plantation due to shade tolerance.

Companion species

Grasses:  Chloris gayana .
Legumes:  Centrosema pubescens , Pueraria phaseoloides , Macroptilium atropurpureum , Macrotyloma axillare , Neonotonia wighti, Stylosanthes guianensis, S. capitata , S. macrocephala , Leucaena leucocephala .

Pests and diseases

Ergot (Claviceps spp.), and other fungal diseases, Conidiospormyces ayresii, Fusarium roseum, and Tilletia sp. can reduce seed yields when conditions are favourable to the pathogen.  Seed production has also been adversely affected by a smut (Ustilago sp.) in Colombia and bunt in the Rift Valley of Kenya.  In Puerto Rico a leaf spot caused by Cercospora fusimaculosus has been recorded.
‘Aruana’ is moderately tolerant of spittlebug, cigarrinha (Brazil), chicharrita (Argentina), salivazo (Colômbia) (Notozulia entreriana, Deois flavopicta, D. incompleta, Mahanarva spp., Aeneolamia reducta, A. selecta  (Homoptera, Cercopidae) in tropical America.

Ability to spread

Spreads by virtue of stoloniferous growth habit .  No record of naturalisation beyond the planted area.

Weed potential

No record of weediness.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Young active growth has been measured to have 17.5% CP and 0.29% P, declining with age to 8.5% CP and 0.1% P in mature growth during the dry season.  ‘Aruana’ is characterised as having 7.5–12% CP, 64% IVDMD .


Palatable to cattle and sheep.  The young leaves regarded as especially suitable for calves, and it is still grown to a limited extent as a calf feed.


None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

Commonly (10–) 20–30 (–60) t/ha DM, depending on variety and growing conditions, particularly levels of N applied.

Animal production

Can achieve up to 0.8 kg/hd/day LWG and up to 1,200 kg/ha/yr LWG (commonly 300–500 kg/ha/yr LWG ) depending primarily on stocking rate and N fertiliser rate.


2n = 32.  Facultative apomicts in which both apospory and pseudogamy occur.

Seed production

Best in environments with longer day lengths and distinct dry seasons.  Seed ripens unevenly, and is shed as it matures.  Highest seed yield (19% recovery) obtained when the panicle has shed 40–60% of its spikelets, which occurs about 12–14 days from panicle emergence.  Direct heading is less efficient in terms of seed recovery than mowing, windrowing and sweating.  Yields of 50–100 kg pure seed yield are common from machine harvest, and around 200 kg/ha from ground sweeping, although higher yields have been recorded.

Herbicide effects

No data for this group, but probably similar to P. maximum :
“Atrazine can be used for weed control in P. maximum at 4 L/ha.  ‘Gatton’ can tolerate over 4.5 kg/ha AI whereas common weeds such as Nicandra physaloides, Raphanus raphanistrum, Argemone ochraleuca, Ageratum conyzoides, Sida cordifolia and Eleusine indica are killed at 0.9 kg/ha AI.
P. maximum can be prevented using a pre-emergent spray (no wetting agent required) of 2,4-D sodium salt at 4.5 kg/ha of an 840 g/kg AI product using a minimum of 340 L/ha of water.  It is susceptible to glyphosate and readily controlled by drizzle applications.  Young plants are susceptible to selective grass -killers, and diuron at 2.5 kg/ha of an 800 g/kg AI in a minimum of 340 litres of water per hectare.  Mature plants can also be killed using 2,2-DPA at 2.3 kg of a 740 g/kg AI product plus paraquat at 85 ml of a 200 g/litre AI product plus wetting agent at 250 ml per 200 litres of water, spraying to point of runoff.”



Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp. 181–192. (Longman: London and New York).
Clayton, W.D. and Renvoize, S.A. (1982) Gramineae (Part 3). In: Polhill, R.M. (ed.) Flora of tropical East Africa A.A. Balkema on behalf of the East African Governments, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Grof, B. and Harding, W.A.T. (1970) Dry matter yields and animal production of guinea grass (Panicum maximum ) on the humid tropical coast of North Queensland. Tropical Grasslands, 4, 85–95.
Harty, R.L., Hopkinson, J.M., English, B.H. and Alder, J. (1983) Germination, dormancy and longevity in stored seeds of Panicum maximum . Seed Science & Technology, 11, 341–351.
McCosker, T.H. and Teitzel, J.K. (1976) A review of guinea grass (Panicum maximum ) for the wet tropics of Australia. Tropical Grasslands, 9, 177–190.
Middleton, C.H. and McCosker, T.H. (1975) Makueni, a new guinea grass for North Queensland. Queensland Agricultural Journal, 101, 351–355.
Pernès, J. (1975) Organisation evolutive d’un groupe agamique: la section des Maximae du genre Panicum (Graminées). Coll Mémoires ORSTOM, Paris.
Savidan, Y.H., Jank, L. and Costa, J.C.G. (1990) Registro de 25 acessos selecionados de Panicum maximum . (Register of 25 selected accessions of Panicum maximum ). Embrapa Gado de Corte, Documentos, 44, 68p. il.

Internet links
Feeding value



Country/date released


(IZ 5)
Brazil (1989) Fine-stemmed, stoloniferous, usually <1 m tall;  narrow leaves, long growing season, very good seed production, very aggressive, very palatable, high quality feed, suited to heavy grazing.  Adapted to areas with >1,000 mm rainfall.  Yields of about 20 t/ha/yr DM with 30–40% in dry season (April–September).  Drought resistant and moderately tolerant of frost and spittlebug.
(Q8132 in Australia)
(K6237, ORSTOM G24, BRA-004367)
Kenya From Embu, Kenya (0.50°S, 37.40°E, 1,500 m asl, rainfall 1,100 mm).  Grows to 1–1.5 m tall.  Leaf-blades 20–30 cm long and 12–17 mm wide;  occasional short hairs on the leaf surface, and sparse short hairs on the lower outside of the sheath near the node junction;  occasional hairs on the lower stem internodes.  Panicle 15–20 cm long, 12–15 cm wide, green.  A leafy, palatable variety, but is intolerant of heavy grazing.  Good winter growth, but low seed production.  Good shade tolerance.  Well adapted to very high rainfall environments (2,500–3,500 mm/yr).

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.