Renovating Native Grass Swards: An On-farm Trial of Improved Warm-Season Grass Varieties

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2022: $27,473.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Penn Soil RC&D Council
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Wesley Ramsey
Penn Soil RC&D Council

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)


  • Crop Production: varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance

    Proposal abstract:

    Native grasses can provide habitat and improve water quality while producing biomass or forage for farmers.  In Pennsylvania, there is increasing interest in growing native grasses on marginal land, on mine reclamation sites, and in areas with high nutrient or soil loss.  Farmers with long-term production fields have reported decreases in yield due to increases in disease and weed pressure.   Promising new varieties of both switchgrass and big bluestem are being released with greater yield and greater disease resistance.  Little is known about the performance of these new varieties in the Pennsylvania ecoregion.  Because re-establishing perennial grass fields can be slow and risky, this project proposes to evaluate the early sward vigor and biomass yields of six new varieties.  These variables will be evaluated using a strip-plot design with two replicates per farm on three farm fields provided by members of Association of Warm Season Grass Producers.  Successful establishment will be measured by 1st year summer seedling counts, 1st 2nd and 3rd year fall sward height, and 2nd and 3rd year fall biomass yield.  Results will be communicated to producers and the public through the organizations participating in this study.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to: (1) Evaluate four improved switchgrass cultivars and two improved big bluestem cultivars across three farms. (2) Measure 1st year grass seedling counts, 1st 2nd and 3rd year fall sward height and 2nd and 3rd year fall biomass yield.  (3) Communicate results to interested parties through online communications, social media, a presentation at the Association of Warm Season Grass Producers annual meeting, and through formal publications.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.