what is the difference between Annual and Perennial grass? (as it pertains to pastures)?

i'm trying to explain to someone the difference between grass that grows all year (when irrigated) and weeds and grass that need to die to re-seed for next season and I'm not using the proper terms to make this under-educated person (who thinks he knows everything) understand. My training is in Marine Biology, not Horticulture, or pasture management. What this person is doing is flood irrigating a very hilly field of weeds that horses and cattle are on and the field has never been sown with Irrigated pasture grass and so by attempting to flood irrigate he is messing with the cycle of growing/dying/re-seeding so next season there wont be any grass(weeds) growing because the animals have eaten it all down to nothing and there were no natural seeds to get the grass started in the spring. and the other thing is that he refuses to rotate the livestock and let the pasture re-generate, so basically within a couple of seasons it will be a dust bowl. Am I not viewing this correctly? thanks for your answers

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  • Anonymous
    3 years ago
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    Hate to say this but it sounds like you too ain't as educated as him about pasture management. Normally I'd tell someone to not bother arguing about something they know nothing about, but since you asked for help in this, I'll do my best to give you some information in addition to what you asked above.

    Annuals are those that die off at the end of every year. Annuals include plants like barley, wheat, corn, annual ryegrass, etc. Perennial grasses are those that come up every year from the same growth point. These include (and it really depends on the area) timothy, kentucky bluegrass, brome grass, fescue, etc. Irrigation has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether grass is an annual or a perennial. You must understand that. Nature dictates that, not irrigation.

    Now, have you ever asked him WHY he is flood-irrigating his pastures, besides assuming what's going to happen if he does? And do you know what weeds he has (if they are that)? Perhaps the "field" (I prefer to call it pasture) is not full of weeds, but rather perennial grasses that have been already eaten down to nubs, and he's just trying to irrigate it to get it growing again and take out the weeds?

    Excess water isn't going to kill off grasses, grasses (especially the perennial ones that are very, VERY competitive) are a lot tougher than you think. The pastures at home here have been flooded every spring with water runoff from the snow melting, creating deep pools of water that last for weeks before they dry up. Not only that, but we get that when we get some heavy rains too. Does the grass die off? No. A bit of heavy rain isn't going to hurt. When you flood a pasture so that it becomes a lake and STAYS as a lake for the remainder of the growing season may indeed kill off the grasses eventually. Thus, flood irrigation is just a short-term means to give the plants a lot of water in a short period of time. The water doesn't last long, it soaks into the soil and transpires into the atmosphere so that soon the pasture returns to normal. (We've never used any irrigation up here because there was no need for it. Our "irrigation" came directly from the skies in the form of rain.)

    I strongly disagree with the argument that he is messing with the life cycle of the pasture grasses. He really isn't. Grasses continue to grow and reproduce and spread seed around regardless of what Nature throws at them: floods, heat waves, cold snaps, snow in July, etc. What REALLY messes up the life cycle of grasses is the grazing of herbivores or cutting grasses for hay. Every time a grass plant is eaten or cut it has to go back to square one again to regrow instead of focus on putting out inflorescence (or the "flower" part of the grass) to reproduce. It has to get energy from the roots to put out new leaves, then focus on putting out more new leaves, then finally, if it hasn't been grazed or cut again, it can put out an inflorescence to try to reproduce.

    Now grazing pasture down to nothing, that most certainly will kill a pasture. Horses are far worse at killing pastures than cattle because they DO and CAN graze it down to literally nothing. Flood irrigation won't solve anything, though it is a band-aid solution to the big problem, but definitely not the one-thing-to-fix-all solution. Better and far more strict pasture management including utilizing rotational grazing (if it's possible in his area, because not all areas can utilize such an intensive grazing management practice) and using grasses and legumes native to his area are better solutions to improving his pastures.

    But really, I can't put a finger on what else to say here because I have no idea of what else is going on here, such as pasture quality, size and number of pastures he has, how he manages his pastures, how many horses/cattle he runs, his location, things like that. If you were to give me some information on your discussion with him I'd be happy to add my two cents to the conversation. ;)

  • 3 years ago

    annual grass grows from seed and has to be allowed to grow to the seed stage or you'll have to reseed the next year. perennial grows again from the roots next year.

  • 3 years ago

    Perennial grasses live for years. Annual grasses live one season, set seed, and die.

    If the hill you're talking about is natural, wild, it certainly has perennial plants and grasses, as well as some annuals.

    Why is he irrigating a hillside if he has not planted it? I'm confused.

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