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Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius)

Description and recommendations

Common names

Carpet grass, common carpet grass, tall carpet grass, caratao grass, Louisiana grass [English/USA], narrow-leaved carpet grass, narrowleaf carpet grass, mat grass, Durrington grass [English/Australia], Rumput Permaidani [Malaysian], grama-missioneira [Portuguese], gramalote, zacate amargo [Spanish] (FAO, 2012; USDA, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Synonyms

Axonopus affinis Chase, Paspalum fissifolium Raddi

Description

Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius (Raddi) Kuhlm.) is a rhizomatous, stoloniferous perennial pasture grass. It forms dense mats that are 15-30 cm high but the flowering culms may reach as 60-75 cm. This shallow-rooted species (< 90 % of the roots are at a depth of 0-5 cm) develops short rhizomes and stout stolons with short internodes. The general habit is erect and branching. The stems root at the nodes (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 1996). The leaves are 5-28 cm long and 4-8 mm broad, flat or folded, glabrous or sparsely hairy on the lower face. The slender inflorescences bear 2-3 spike-like racemes, which are 2-10 cm long. The spikelets are about 2 mm long, alternatively arranged on the rachis (Bogdan, 1977). The seed (grain) is an ellipsoid caryopsis, tan to pale brown in colour (Cook et al., 2005). Though Axonopus fissifolius is supposed to have narrower leaves than Axonopus compressus, these closely related species cannot be easily distinguished from one another due to hybridization and variability in leaf width (Bogdan, 1977).

Carpet grass is usually grazed rather than used in cut-and carry systems, due to its slow growth and poor yields. It is valued as a cover crop and turf grass in moist, low fertility soils (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Some commercial cultivars exist (Campbell et al., 1996).

Distribution

Carpet grass is a summer-growing perennial believed to have originated from the Southern USA, the West Indies or Central America (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). It is now found in many tropical and subtropical regions of America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands (FAO, 2012). It generally grows in low, flat or hilly humid and sub-humid areas of warm temperate or tropical woodland and savannahs (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Axonopus fissifolius is better adapted to subtropical climates than to tropical ones. It can represent 30-60% of species in native and improved subtropical pastures (Hennessy et al., 1998). In Australia, where it has been naturalized for a long time, Axonopus fissifolius does very well during hot and dry summer seasons as well as in degraded pastures. It is found further south than Axonopus compressus (Cook et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 1996; Martin, 1975; Cohen, 1974). Axonopus fissifolius is found from 35° N to 35° S, from sea level to up to an altitude of 1000 m. It does well in places where average annual temperatures range from 17°C to 27°C and annual rainfall is higher than 750 mm. It survives heavy frost during winter and has some tolerance of drought but does not grow well under flooding or waterlogged conditions (Cook et al., 2005). It prefers moist acid sandy soils, or sandy loamy soils. It becomes chlorotic on soils with pH above 7. It has poor salt tolerance (< 4 dS/m) (Uddin et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005).

Forage management

Carpet grass is mainly found in permanent pastures where it can be heavily grazed by livestock or frequently cut. It can be vegetatively propagated through runners or sown, as it seeds easily (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005, Smith et al., 2002). When it is sown, Axonopus fissifolius can be broadcast on a well-prepared seedbed and then rolled in (FAO, 2012). It can be sown with other grasses (Axonopus compressusPaspalum dilatatumCynodon dactylon, and Setaria sphacelata) or legumes (Aeschynomene falcataAeschynomene villosaArachis glabrataArachis pintoiLotus uliginosusTrifolium repensTrifolium semipilosumVigna parkeri) (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). When sown with dallis grass (Paspalum dilatatum) or Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) in low fertility soils, Axonopus fissifolius may gradually become invasive (FAO, 2012). Additional N in such mixed stands prevents carpet grass from becoming invasive and also helps maintaining it in its vegetative stage with a higher nutritive value. In natural rangelands, carpet grass is readily propagated by grazing ruminants because of the high viability of its seeds after passing through the rumen and total digestive tract (Simao Neto et al., 1986). Carpet grass tended to be more abundant in sheep and beef cattle pastures than in dairy pasture (Campbell et al., 1996).

Carpet grass is not very productive and yields about 1-5 t DM/ha/year, even with added fertilizer (Cook et al., 2005). Defoliation (by cutting or heavy grazing) prevents flowering and the subsequent decrease in its nutritive value (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005). Axonopus fissifolius should be cut low to prevent a fall in yield. Carpet grass is not suitable for hay and silage or for stand-over or deferred feeding because of its low productivity and poor nutritional value after the stems have flowered (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact

Cover crop and soil quality improver

In the USA, carpet grass is often referred to as a good cover crop and soil erosion controller for shaded sloping fields. It is much valued in shaded orchards of Hawaii (Smith et al., 2002). It improves soil structure, and increases water infiltration rates and soil water capacity (Smith et al., 2002).

Weed control and weed potential

Once established, carpet grass smothers out weeds with its dense sward growth habit, making it a good tool for reduced, or no, chemical weed control (Smith et al., 2002). However, carpet grass may become a weed in low fertility soils (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Potential constraints

No information found (2012).

Nutritional attributes

Carpet grass is considered a low quality forage (Campbell et al., 1996). Crude protein content in fresh fodder is low (5-10% DM) and in hay it is even lower (4-6%) (Feedipedia, 2013; Hennessy et al., 1998Lloyd et al., 1992Martin, 1975Cohen, 1974). However, pastures of Axonopus fissifolius with added N can contain 12% to 16% CP in the DM (Martin, 1975). In Australia, the invasion of carpet grass in Paspalum-based or kikuyu-based pastures has been linked with a decline in animal production (Martin, 1975). Some nutrient deficiencies and physical characteristics of Axonopus fissifolius make it resistant to microbial attack in the rumen, resulting in poor animal performance (Lloyd et al., 1992).

Ruminants

When leafy, carpet grass is fairly palatable to ruminants but palatability declines as the stands flower (FAO, 2012). Reported in vivo OM digestibility of carpet grass hay ranged between 43 and 55% (Lloyd et al., 1992; Cohen, 1974).

Most ruminant trials with Axonopus fissifolius have been carried out in Australia.

Cattle

Sub-tropical pastures containing mostly Axonopus fissifolius can be grazed throughout the grazing season by beef cattle, with or without protein supplementation (Hennessy et al., 1998; Hennessy, 1986; Martin, 1975).  Hereford heifers grazing carpet grass-based native tropical pastures of low quality (protein 5% DM, DM digestibility 50%) gained more live weight and had a higher pregnancy rate when supplemented with molasses or molasses-cottonseed meal than  those without supplementation (Hennessy, 1986). Early experiments reported lower animal performance on carpet grass pastures than on Paspalum notatum, coastal Bermuda or Digitaria eriantha pastures. In grazing cattle, live-weight gain was found to be low (70-170 kg/ha/year), with weight loss often occurring at the end of the season when the cattle were not fed a supplement. Gain can be greatly increased up to 100-700 kg/ha/year by mixing carpet grass with white clover (Trifolium repens) or lespedeza (Martin, 1975). In Angus steers fed mature carpet grass hay in pens, DM intake reached 17.2 g/kg LW/day but digestible DM intake was only 7.6 g/kg LW/d, resulting in a daily weight loss of 0.54 kg. Supplementation with molasses (500 g/d) increased DM intake by 30%, resulting in less weight loss (0.12 kg/d). Additional supply of 60 or 120 g/d of urea had no effect on DM digestibility, DM intake and live-weight loss (Cohen, 1974).

Sheep

Adult Peppin Merino sheep fed on low quality Axonopus fissifolius hay (protein 5.7 % DM, OM digestibility 52%) had a DM intake of 12.3 g/kg LW/day. Increasing the amount of oats in the diet from 20 to 50% (DM basis) reduced NDF and ADF digestibilities, but increased DM or OM digestibilities (Lloyd et al., 1992).

Rabbits

No information found (2012).

Horses and donkeys

Horses are reported to eat the clumps of seed-heads that are unpalatable to ruminants (FAO, 2012; Cook et al., 2005).

Citation

Heuzé V., Tran G., Delagarde R., Lebas F., 2013. Carpet grass (Axonopus fissifolius). Feedipedia.org. A programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/499 Last updated on October 4, 2013, 12:58

Tables

Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 37.9 13.4 28.9 57.8 4  
Crude protein % DM 6.5 1.3 4.8 10.1 18  
Crude fibre % DM 32.8 2.6 28.6 37.2 11  
NDF % DM 68.1         *
ADF % DM 38.4         *
Lignin % DM 5.0         *
Ether extract % DM 1.5 0.3 1.1 1.9 11  
Ash % DM 7.3 1.6 5.1 11.2 12  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1         *
               
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.7 0.8 1.6 4.0 14  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.1 0.6 0.0 2.9 19  
Potassium g/kg DM 12.3 3.7 6.4 18.0 11  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.3 0.3 1.1 1.6 5  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.3 0.3 1.6 2.6 10  
Manganese mg/kg DM 270 144 75 463 5  
Zinc mg/kg DM 23 4 19 28 5  
Copper mg/kg DM 4 0 4 5 5  
               
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 63.3         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 60.5         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.0         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.9         *

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

References

Aregheore et al., 2006; CIRAD, 1991; Cohen, 1972; INFIC, 1978; Lim Han Kuo, 1967; Martin, 1975

Last updated on 23/04/2013 16:03:45

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 89.0   87.0 91.0 2  
Crude protein % DM 4.7   3.8 5.6 2  
NDF % DM 72.0         *
ADF % DM 43.0       1  
Lignin % DM 6.0         *
Ash % DM 7.6       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.2       1  
               
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.1       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.5       1  
Potassium g/kg DM 3.4       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.7       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.5       1  
Manganese mg/kg DM 421       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 19       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 4       1  
Iron mg/kg DM 226       1  
               
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 52.4       1  
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 49.1         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 24.6       1  

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

References

Cohen, 1974; Lloyd et al., 1992

Last updated on 23/04/2013 16:05:41

References

References

Bogdan, A. V., 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants. Longman, 475 pp. web icon
Bush, E.; Wilson, P.; Shepard, D.; McCrimmon, J., 2000. Freezing tolerance and nonstructural carbohydrate composition of carpet grass (Axonopus affinis Chase). HortScience, 35(2): 187-189 web icon
Campbell, B. D.; Wardle, D. A.; Woods, P. W.; Field, T. R. O.; Williamson, D. Y.; Barker, G. M., 1996. Ecology of subtropical grasses in temperate pastures: an overview. Proc. New Zealand Grassl. Assoc., 57: 189-197 web icon
Cohen, R. D. H., 1972. Phosphorus nutrition of beef cattle. 1. Effect of supplementation on liveweight of steers and digestibilty of diet. Aust. J. Exp. Agric. Anim. Husb., 12 (58): 455-459 web icon
Cohen, R. D. H., 1974. Effect of molasses-urea supplements on digestibility of mature carpet grass (Axonopus affinis) and liveweight change of beef steers. Aust. J. Exp. Agric. Anim. Husb., 14 (70): 589-592 web icon
Cook, B. G. ; Pengelly, B. C. ; Brown, S. D. ; Donnelly, J. L. ; Eagles, D. A. ; Franco, M. A. ; Hanson, J. ; Mullen, B. F. ; Partridge, I. J. ; Peters, M. ; Schultze-Kraft, R., 2005. Tropical forages. CSIRO, DPI&F(Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, Australia web icon
FAO, 2012. Grassland Index. A searchable catalogue of grass and forage legumes. FAO, Rome, Italy web icon
Giraldo-Cañas, D., 2008. Revision of the genus Axonopus (Poaceae: Paniceae): First record of the genus for Europe and taxonomic novelties. Caldasia, 30 (2):301-314 web icon
Hennessy, D. W.; McLennan, D. J.; Williamson, P. J., Morris, S. G., 1998. Changes in characteristics of pastures in the coastal subtropics when grazed by cattle during years of low rainfall. Aust. J. Exp. Agric., 38 (8): 813-820 web icon
Hennessy, D.W., 1986. Supplementation to reduce lactational anoestrus in first-calf heifers grazing native pastures in the subtropics. Proc. Australian Soc. Anim. Prod., 16: 227-230 web icon
INFIC, 1978. Data from International Network of Feed Information Centres. Rome, FAO
Lim Han Kuo, 1967. Animal feeding stuffs. Part 3. Compositional data of feeds and concentrates. Malay. Agric. J., 46 (1): 63-79
Lloyd, C. E. ; Lloyd Davies, H., 1992. Effect of supplementing sheep with oat grain on their intake, digestion, and nitrogen balance when fed chopped carpet grass (Axonopus affinis Chase) hay. Aust. J. Exp. Agric., 32 (2): 163-165 web icon
Martin, R. J., 1975. A review of carpet grass (Axonopus affinis) in relation to the improvement of carpet grass based pasture. Tropic. Grassl., 9 (1): 9-19 web icon
Partridge, I. J., 2003. Better pastures for the tropics and subtropics. Tropical Grassland Society of Australia web icon
Simao Neto, M. ; Jones, R. M., 1986. The effect of storage in cattle dung on viability of tropical pasture seeds. Tropic. Grassl., 20 (4): 181-183 web icon
Simao Neto, M. ; Jones, R. M. ; Ratcliff, D., 1987. Recovery of pasture seed ingested by ruminants. 1. Seed of six tropical pasture species fed to cattle, sheep and goats. Aust. J. Exp. Agric., 27 (2): 239-246 web icon
Simao Neto, M. ; Jones, R. M., 1987. Recovery of pasture seed ingested by ruminants. 2. Digestion of seed in sacco and in vitro. Aust. J. Exp. Agric., 27 (2): 247-251 web icon
Smith, J. ; Valenzuela, H., 2002. Carpetgrass. Univ. Hawaii at Manoa, Coop. Ext. Service, Sustainable Agriculture, Cover Crops, Aug. 2002, SA-CC-1 web icon
Uddin, M. K. ; Juraimi, A. S. ; Ismail, M. R. ; Othman, R. ; Rahim, A. A., 2009. Growth response of eight tropical turfgrass species to salinity. Afr. J. Biotech., 8 (21): 5799-5806 web icon
USDA, 2012. GRIN - Germplasm Resources Information Network. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland web icon