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Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum): Uses, Benefits and Facts

Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum) is a warm-season perennial forage-producing grass native to North America. It belongs to the Poaceae family of grasses in the order of Poales, and the kingdom Plantae of grass.

Switchgrass is a monocotyledonous plant and is one of the most dominant species of the American tallgrass prairie.

This monocot grass can be found in native grass pastures and is also seen spreading out along the roadsides, just like the sudangrass, it is used mainly for soil conservation and as food for grazing cattle.

This monocot has tons of benefits and uses, which we will be looking into later in this article.

Switchgrass is a perennial warm-season bunch-grass as earlier mentioned, however, there are other common names for the switchgrass, they include;

(1) Panic grass

(2) Tall prairie grass

(3) Wild redtop

(4) Thatch grass

(5) Virginia switchgrass, etc.

This monocot has proven itself to be very useful, because it serves as a biomass crop for the production of ethanol and butanol, it is also available in electricity generation.

Read Also: Sudangrass (Sorghum × drummondii) Complete Guide

However, we will be revealing some exciting facts and benefits of the Panicum Virgatum also known as switchgrass

How to Identify a Switchgrass

Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum): Uses, Benefits and Facts

Before we go on to talk about some of the facts and benefits of this grass, we will be explaining how you can identify and recognize switchgrass when you see it.

The root of this perennial grass is deeply rooted to the ground and also a hard.

This perennial grass starts to grow in late spring, it can grow up to 2.7m high, but it is typically taller when compared to grasses like crabgrass and bermudagrass.

The leaves of this monocot are typically 30-90cm long, this grass tends to thrive in drought and high-temperature conditions.

The flowers of this monocot are said to have a well-developed panicle and when this grass gets ripe, the switchgrass seeds sometimes take on a pink or dull-purple tinge.

Switchgrass is also said to be a self-seeding crop and due to this fact, most farmers do not have to stress themselves re-planting the seeds after harvest as it tends to do that automatically.

An interesting fact about this monocotyledonous plant is that it possesses a self-seeding property and can survive for more than 7-10 years once it has been established.

However, unlike corn, switchgrass grows on marginal lands and it also requires moderate application of fertilizer.

Read Also: Crabgrass (Digitaria) – All You Need to Know About

Uses of Switch Grass

One fascinating fact about switchgrass plants is that it can be used as feed for animals and also can be used in biomass energy production.

In this section, we will be opening your eyes to some interesting uses of switchgrass.

(1) Switchgrass serves as a soil conserver, it is generally used in the control of erosion.

(2) They can be used as forage by farmers who are into cattle rearing for pasture. It mainly serves as a substitute for wheat straw in many applications.

(3) The switchgrass seedlings is also grown to be used as a substrate for growing mushrooms, also as bedding for livestock and straw blade housing.

(4) Most people, tend to grow this grass on their farm because of its drought-resistant property, in most cases, the switchgrass is used in full sun to part shade.

Read Also: St Augustine Grass – Complete Growing Guide

Benefits of Switch Grass

Panicum Virgatum has tons of benefits, a few of these benefits are outlined here;

(1) Good Source of Bioenergy

According to research, the switchgrass has been termed a “renewable bioenergy crop” because it is a warm-season grass with the ability to procreate moderate to high yields on marginal farmlands.

However, you should know that due to the fact of it being a bioenergy producing grass, it has now been used in the production of cellulosic ethanol and also in therapy energy applications.

(2) Soil conservation

This grass is useful and good when it comes to the conservation of soil, it tends to have fibrous roots nearly as deep as the height of the grass itself.

Over the years, farmers have been employing the use of this grass on their farmlands, just to renew and conserve the soils on their farmlands.

The conservative property of this monocot is as a result of some kind of organic matter being released on the soil from the grass, hence making the soil fertile.

 (3) Used as Forage

An ideal choice for forage for grazing cattle is the switchgrass, however, there have been numerous complaints about this grass from most farmers who are into the cattle rearing business, concerning its toxicity in cattle, goats, and other animals.

The toxicity is caused by a chemical compound known as saponins, which causes photosensitivity and liver damage in the above-mentioned animals.

Therefore, although this monocot can be used as feed for cattle, it is not highly recommended for use due to the toxicity in some cattle.

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Facts about Switch Grass

(1) It is a perennial grass and should be replanted every 10 to 15 years.

(2) This monocotyledonous plant tends to have 6 to 8 tons of yields.

(3) They tend to capture a great amount of carbon from the air and then convert it to organic matter.

(4) This monocot also tends to grow on infertile soils, and grows in dry areas.

(5) It is an ideal choice when it comes to the conservation of soil due to the organic matter being released into the soil.

(6) It has a deep root.

In conclusion, Panicum Virgatum serves as an ideal choice for bioenergy and in few cases used as food for cattle, however, they are also notable for the conservation of soils.

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