Growing Grass After the Hurricanes

Will grass re-establish in Gulf Coast area pastures that were covered in murky, salty, or contaminated floodwaters for several weeks in September? That is a question agronomy researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) aim to answer in the coming months. Plant and soil scientists are analyzing how best to manage pastures and hay fields that were swamped by water in the weeks following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Ed Twidwell, extension forage specialist with the LSU AgCenter, has visited most of the floodwater-affected agricultural areas in Louisiana. "The biggest problem deals with the length of time the floodwaters stayed on the pasture and hay areas," he said. "There are still some areas along the coast that remain underwater. The pastures in these areas may take a while to recover."

In areas north of the coast that weren't as severely affected, "The floodwaters may have been on fields from one to three days, and then receded," Twidwell explained. "In these areas, the bermudagrass is recovering pretty well, but other forage species such as bahiagrass and carpetgrass are more severely impacted."

He anticipates that it will be spring before a true assessment on the pastures can be made. "The problem here is water basically drowning the plants," he added. "Salinity may be a secondary problem."

Every October, farmers begin planting ryegrass for winter and spring grazing. Twidwell and others are determining how sensitive young ryegrass is to saline conditions. Producers can have agronomists analyze their soil for salinity, or they can perform their own field bioassays.

Hopes are high that the issue of once-flooded pastures won't be one more long-term devastating effect seen from the hurricanes. "I think that winter rains should help the permanent pastures and hayfields recover by next spring," Tidwell added.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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