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Tobosa Makes Good Forage - If You Burn It
Tobosa grass is one tough grass, growing in arid areas from West Texas through New Mexico and Arizona to southern California. Not only will it come back rain or no rain, but it also holds its leaves, which is why it needs fire.
“Tobosa grass can be a really good grass for grazing if you know how to manage it,” says Ricky Linex, wildlife biologist and author of “Range Plants of North Central Texas.”
He compares it to Bermuda grass in quality if well managed. However, it grows well where Bermuda grass won’t, on deep clay saline and alkaline soils. It likes drier areas and is well adapted to them.
“Like most range plants, it doesn’t respond to inorganic fertilizers,” says Linex. “It just needs to be burned every 4 to 5 years.”
The reason fire is needed is the leaves in the center and top go dormant but can last for several years. They catch and hold blowing sand. Cattle will eat the new leaves that grow up beside the old but will prefer other grasses like buffalo grass.
“When you burn the tobosa grass, you get rid of the dry, old, unpalatable leaves, and the sand falls to the ground,” says Linex. “Burning puts the ash on the ground, and the plant gets the benefit.”
Linex describes tobosa stems as reaching 2 to 3 ft. in height. Plants originate from seeds or rough, scaly rhizomes. Stems are stiff and harsh, flat or often inrolled, 1/8 in. wide and 1 1/2 to 6 in. long.
“After a prescribed burn, if there’s adequate moisture, the plant will green up in the spring with leaves being tender and palatable and readily eaten by cattle and sheep,” says Linex. “The effects of burning will generally improve forage quality for up to 2 years.”
Linex is unaware of any seed being available or of it being harvested by anyone. However, where it now grows, he advises it could be of benefit to livestock if managed properly. Even left alone, it provides soil conservation benefits and habitat for bobwhite quail and other ground-nesting birds.
“Parts of the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico where tobosa grass grows were hard hit by the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s,” says Linex. “Plowing up native grasses like the tobosa that were holding the soil in place was a likely contributor.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ricky Linex, 106 Oakwood Dr., Weatherford, Texas 76086 (ph 817-599-9706; rlinex@charter.net).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3