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Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula)

Datasheet

Description
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Common names 

Weeping love grass, weeping lovegrass, Boer love grass, African lovegrass, curved lovegrass, Catalina lovegrass [English]; éragrostide courbée [French]; pasto llorón [Spanish]; capim-chorão [Portuguese]; oulandsgras [Afrikaans]; afrikanskt kärleksgräs [Swedish]; salkım yalaf [Turkish]; 弯叶画眉草 [Chinese]; シナダレスズメガヤ, ウィーピン グラブグラス [Japanese]

Synonyms 

Eragrostis chloromelas Steud., Eragrostis jeffreysii Hack., Eragrostis robusta Stent, Eragrostis subulata Nees, Poa curvula Schrad.

Description 

Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula (Schrad.) Nees.) is a wiry, tufted perennial, up to 120-180 cm high. It forms large clumps with abundant drooping leaves at the base. It has an extensive, fibrous root system. The culms are fine, fibrous, unbranched and erect. The leaves are narrow, up to 50 cm long, 1-5 mm wide, rolled or flat, rough on both surfaces and green to bluish in colour (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005). The inflorescence is a much branched, open or contracted, erect or pendent panicle, 6-40 cm long and 5-10 cm broad (Cook et al., 2005; Duke, 1983).The lowest branches are pilose and the secondary branches bear the sessile greyish green spikelets that are linear oblong and are 8-10 mm long (Duke, 1983). The seeds are edible, creamy to dark orange caryopses. The genus Eragrostis covers about 350 species that are often very similar-looking. As many varieties and cultivars of Eragrostis curvula exist, this species is quite variable and there are sometimes very little difference between Eragrostis curvula and other Eragrostis species such as Eragrostis lehmanniana and Eragrostis rigidior (Partridge, 2003; Duke, 1983; FAO, 2011).

Eragrostis curvula is mainly used for pastures or hay (FAO, 2011). Seeds are edible and considered as famine food (Quattrocchi, 2006, Duke, 1983). Weeping love grass is also used in leys with alfalfa crops, in drier farming areas, and as a cover crop to protect soil from erosion. It is used to make baskets, brooms, ropes and candles, and valued as an ornamental species (Duke, 1983).

Distribution 

Eragrostis curvula originated from South Africa and spread northwards to East Africa. It is now widely naturalized and can be found in North America, Brazil, North Africa and Australia. It grows in disturbed areas, overgrazed or trampled grassland, as well as on stony flats, waste areas, roadsides, water courses, well-drained sandy or rocky soils, and stony mountains (Quattrocchi, 2006).

Eragrostis curvula is a long growing season grass (from early spring to late autumn) (Cook et al., 2005). It is found in areas with subtropical climate, and from sea level to an altitude of 3500 m. It grows better at temperatures ranging from 17°C to 32°C and in areas where annual rainfall is between 500 and 1000 mm. It has some frost tolerance and continues growing down to about 7°C. It has some drought tolerance and grows in areas with rainfall as low as 300 mm if it is sown on basins or furrows. Tolerance varies widely with genotypes and some of them remain green even after frost (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005; Partridge, 2003). Eragrostis curvula prefers well-drained sandy loams and a soil pH between 7 and 8.5, but it grows on a wide range of soils including acid soils, with a pH as low as 4.5, or heavy clays. It is tolerant of soil salinity (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005). Optimal soil pH and texture as well as adaptation to soil salinity all vary with genotype (Cook et al., 2005). Eragrostis curvula can grow without fertilizer but applications of N and K are recommended for optimal production (FAO, 2011).

Forage management 

Eragrostis curvula can be broadcast or drilled in rows during spring or early summer. It establishes easily from seeds. It can be sown in pure stands and does well with companion grasses (Bothriochloa ischaemum, Chloris gayana, Cynodon dactylon, Digitaria eriantha, Paspalum nicorae) or legumes (Aeschynomene falcata, Chamaecrista rotundifolia, Kummerowia stipulacea, Lotononis bainesii, Macroptilium atropurpureum, Medicago sativa, Melilotus spp., Ornithopus pinnatus, Stylosanthes scabra, Trifolium subterraneum, Vicia spp.) (Cook et al., 2005).

Dry matter yields range from 3-10 t/ha without additional fertilizer and under low rainfall, to 20-30 t/ha with adequate fertilizer under irrigation (Cook et al., 2005). In Australia, increasing the cutting interval from 4 to 8 weeks could double the yield (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005). In Northern Mexico, Eragrostis curvula is a more productive forage than native grassland (2.5 vs. 0.6 t DM/ha), making this species a good alternative for the livestock industry (Esqueda et al., 2001). In South Africa, mixed Eragrostis curvula/alfalfa sheep pastures have been found to give higher yields and to be potentially more profitable than non or moderately N-fertilized Eragrostis. It was also suggested that if Eragrostis curvula was to be used in a pure stand it should be well fertilized (300 kg N /ha) (Rethman et al., 1984).

Eragrostis curvula can be grazed, used as deferred pasture or made into hay. It should be grazed heavily or mown regularly. This prevents the grass from becoming fibrous and the stands from depleting soil water too quickly, which would hinder plant growth and might result in plant death (Cook et al., 2005). However, in South Africa, Eragrostis curvula appeared to be more sensitive to sheep grazing than alfalfa (Rethman et al., 1984). Prescribed burning is a valuable pasture management tool as it improves stand density, yield and herbage quality (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

Weed

Eragrostis curvula produces large amounts of seeds that readily spread into disturbed areas. It also competes strongly with other pasture species. It is thus considered to be a serious weed in most regions of Australia (Partridge, 2003; Parsons et al., 2001).

Erosion control

Because of its ability to spread and grow readily, Eragrostis curvula is much valued for soil erosion control. It has helped to stabilize mountain slopes, terraces, banks of reservoirs and water discharge areas in many countries (FAO, 2011; Cook et al., 2005). It has also helped in reclaiming acidic mining wastes (Parsons et al., 2001).

Nematode control

Some cultivars may help controlling root-knot development in tea and tobacco plantations (Cook et al., 2005).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

No toxicity has been reported (2011).

Ruminants 

Eragrostis curvula is generally considered to be a poor forage for grazing livestock and its main advantages are its agronomic characteristics, such as its relatively low seeding cost, ease of establishment, high productivity and drought tolerance (Torell et al., 2000).

Digestibility and intake

DM digestibility of fresh or dry Eragrostis curvula forage is relatively low and varies between 43 and 60% (Marchi et al., 1973a; Castro et al., 1984; Snyman, 1991). In an experiment in Argentina, chopped (and dusty) hay was found to be much less digestible than whole hay (by 15 percentage points). Urea fertilizer increased forage yield; DM intake and digestibility were slightly improved (Marchi et al., 1973a). In situ DM degradabililty was lower for Eragrostis curvula than for Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus) and golden millet (Setaria sphacelata) (Vieyra et al., 1995). However, it has been suggested that those poor results are often obtained on mature, frosted and senesced forage, and that a more appropriate management system could result in higher nutritive values (Johnston, 1989).

Palatability

Eragrostis curvula is not a very palatable species, though it may be more palatable to sheep than to cattle, according to a study in Zimbabwe (Mills, 1977). Some palatable and some unpalatable accessions have also been identified in Australia. What reduces palatability is unclear since it is not correlated with high fibre, low protein or low in vitro digestibility (Johnston, 1989). In Japan, Eragrostis curvula was among the least preferred, by cattle, of 10 winter winter pasture species (Nada, 1985), and in South Africa, of 18 subtropical grasses and legumes (Grunow et al., 1978). In the Argentine Pampas, semi-arid species such as Pennisetum orientale and Panicum virgatum were preferred to Eragrostis curvula in the spring and summer seasons (Rabotnikof et al., 2005). In South Africa, similar results have been obtained with sheep. In Natal, it was one of the least acceptable of 7 grasses, due to its structure and leaf quality, as animals preferred species that were short, not stemmy, with leaves of low DM, low tensile strength, and high protein content (O'Reagain, 1993). It was also less preferred than Digitaria eriantha, with no effect of fertilizer level and stage of maturity (Dannhauser et al., 1986). However, another trial ranked the palatability of Eragrostis curvula, Eragrostis racemosa and Eragrostis capensis as intermediate for sheep (Barnes et al., 1992).

Beef cattle

Eragrostis curvula is used in extensive beef production, but the performance of animals grazing it has been variable. It does well when compared to low-productive native grass: in Mexico, beef cattle grazing Eragrostis curvula had better performance than those grazing native grass (0.6 vs. 0.45 kg/d; 0.3 vs. 0.1 kg/d; 0.7 vs. 0.5 kg/d for heifers, lactating cows and calves respectively), which was due to the much higher (400%) forage productivity of Eragrostis (Esqueda et al., 2001). Other trials have been disappointing. In South Africa, trials in the early 1970s did not turn well, as beef cattle grazing Eragrostis curvula did not have good performance, probably due to a lack of knowledge at that time regarding its nutrional value and the amount of supplementation required (Rethman et al., 1977b). A large scale trial in New Mexico in the 1990s concluded that grazing Eragrostis curvula pastures did not appear to be an economically viable alternative, as the average daily gain of yearlings declined rapidly as the grazing season progressed, from 1.36 kg/d in May to less than 0.45 kg/d by the end of August (Torell et al., 2000).

Supplementation has been the key to better performance. In Argentina, supplementation of Eragrostis curvula hay with a mixture of oats and sunflower meal promoted more gain in Angus calves (516 g/d) than oats alone, which resulted in weight loss. The energy brought by oats alone was not enough to overcome the low protein content of the hay (Arelovich et al., 1992). In Argentina, sowing Eragrostis curvula with a legume (Melilotus officinalis) increased the average daily gain of 200 kg steers from 346 to 585 g/d and the number of grazing days from 1469 to 1763 (Cairnie, 1988). Large round bales were a good method of preserving Eragrostis curvula hay to feed 20-month-old steers and a proposed supplement was 1 kg broken maize + 0.05 kg urea/d (Giraudo et al., 1986).

Sheep

In South Africa, Eragrostis curvula hay gave better weight gains and nitrogen retention in lambs than maize stover (both forages being milled and treated with 2% urea) (Snyman, 1991). Supplementating Eragrostis curvula hay with a legume forage (tree lucerne Chamaecytisus palmensis) improved OM and cellulose digestibility, rumen ammonia levels and intake (the latter for low and medium quality hays) (Niekerk et al., 1995; Niekerk et al., 1996). Experiments with abomasal administration of casein, which increased intake, average daily gain, wool growth, non-ammonia N flow to the abomasum and N-retention, suggest that essential amino acids, rather than energy, are limiting with such a poor-quality forage (Meissner et al., 1989b).

Several trials have compared Eragrostis curvula and alfalfa for sheep farming. In Australia, both forages were able to sustain high stocking rates for lengthy periods in spring and summer (more than 12 head/ha). While sheep grazing alfalfa tended to be heavier with more wool, alfalfa was more difficult to establish and costs for weed and insect control were higher. It was concluded that Eragrostis curvula has a complimentary role to alfalfa for sowing on landscapes and in situations to which alfalfa is poorly adapted (Johnston et al., 2005b). As weeping love grass was more productive in summer and autumn than alfalfa, using it for grazing strategies such as rotational grazing would help to improve management flexibility for common perennial pastures such as alfalfa (Johnston et al., 2005a).

Rabbits 

No experimental study on the nutritive value of Eragrostis curvula for rabbits was found in the literature. However, in Australia, residues of this grass were noticeably present in the stomach of wild rabbits grazing in an area where it was available (Martin et al., 2007), and so it may be inferred that fresh weeping love grass is palatable and non-toxic to rabbits.

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 38.2 7.0 28.1 48.3 29
Crude protein % DM 9.0 1.9 5.6 13.1 38
Crude fibre % DM 38.3 2.7 30.7 42.1 31
NDF % DM 73.3 *
ADF % DM 44.5 *
Lignin % DM 6.4 *
Ether extract % DM 1.9 0.4 1.1 2.7 30
Ash % DM 4.6 1.0 3.6 7.1 31
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.1 *
 
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 2.0 0.2 1.6 2.6 29
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.2 0.3 0.9 1.8 29
Potassium g/kg DM 11.6 2.3 8.8 17.0 28
Magnesium g/kg DM 0.9 0.2 0.7 1.9 29
 
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 53.3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 49.4 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.4 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.6 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.

References

AFZ, 2011; Alibes et al., 1990; Castro et al., 1984; CIRAD, 1991; Pozy et al., 1996; Rethman et al., 1984; Vargas et al., 1965

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:45:20

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 83.2 14.9 66.0 93.0 3
Crude protein % DM 8.4 2.2 5.7 13.0 17
Crude fibre % DM 34.8 5.5 29.5 40.5 3
NDF % DM 77.9 4.3 72.6 82.7 4
ADF % DM 42.6 4.0 38.2 47.3 4
Lignin % DM 6.1 3.4 1.9 9.7 4
Ether extract % DM 2.0 0.6 1.3 2.4 3
Ash % DM 6.5 2.1 4.7 9.2 5
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.6 *
 
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 2.9 1.9 4.0 2
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.7 1.5 1.9 2
Potassium g/kg DM 14.6 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.1 1.0 1.3 2
 
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 55.1 1
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 51.3 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.5 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.7 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 51.4 1

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.

References

AFZ, 2011; Berhane et al., 2006; CIRAD, 1991; Erasmus et al., 1994; Pozy et al., 1996; Rethman et al., 1984; Snyman, 1991; Todd, 1956

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:45:20

References
References 
Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Boval M., Lebas F., 2015. Weeping love grass (Eragrostis curvula). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/441 Last updated on October 13, 2015, 18:35

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)