USA Buffel Grass

Cenchrus ciliaris

  • Earlier maturing and shorter than Gayndah or Biloela
  • The heads has light purple coloration and thus distinguishable from these two varieties
  • It is more suited to the light and medium texture soils

Download a copy of the USA Buffel Grass factsheet.


USA Buffel grass is a medium height variety that has the fine stems and dense foliage of Gayndah, but it flowers a little earlier and the seed heads are purple in colour.


Originally from Turkana Desert in NW Kenya (ca 3ºN, 500 m asl, rainfall ca 200 mm). USA is an early maturing, non-rhizomatous type, suitable for light to medium textured soils. USA has better seedling survival on acid soils than other cultivars. Selected for drought tolerance and forage production.


This cultivar is very similar to Gayndah in characteristics and performance, but is shorter and the leaves are laxer and narrower. It is a deep rooted Summer growing perennial with drought resistance and tolerant to heavy grazing or burning. USA buffel grass has the ability to respond quickly to any drought breaking rains. It will flower early but whilst flowering will continue to produce extra leaf and new shoots. The flower or seed head resembles the typical “fox tail”. It is sown in areas receiving an annual rainfall of between 350 and 1000mm. Because of its ability to tolerate low rainfall it can be grown in areas not suitable to Rhodes grass or Green panic. It is less cold tolerant than Green panic.


Mainly used as a permanent pasture, but can be used for hay or silage. Not suited to short-term pasture because too difficult to remove.


Key features

  • Fine stemmed, medium height, dense variety
  • Early maturing with purple flowers
  • Suitable for lighter, textured, well drained soils



Fresh seed often has high level of dormancy. Germination rate can be improved with storage of 6–18 months after harvest or by separating caryopses. Total live seed content is commonly 30–50%. Establishment is difficult on hard setting and heavy clay soils. Establishes readily if competition is controlled. Sown 0–1 cm deep at the planting rates stated above, the lower rates on sandy-loam soils. Whilst it grows on a wide variety of soils it prefers the higher fertility scrub soils. It has been found that the addition of extra phosphorus aids in seeding vigour at establishment. The germination of seed improves with age and any seed sown whilst dormant will remain in the soil until the following growing season. The seed is “fluffy” therefore to overcome any difficulty at sowing use AgriCOTE Pro-Tech or it should be bulked up with other free flowing material. Best sown through a roller drum, grass airseeder, modified fertiliser spreader or modified combine. Sow at and rely on follow-up rain for establishment.


Agronomy and management

USA has rapid growth from very early spring through late summer. Growth continues during hottest part of summer with brief showers. Fast recovery from grazing and drought. It is slow to establish and grazing may need to be delayed anything up to 12 months in marginal areas, depending on establishment conditions. Under these marginal conditions, it is best to avoid grazing in the first year until after seed-set, which ensures plants are well-established, and gives lighter stands the opportunity to thicken up in subsequent years. Once established, USA Buffel grass is very tolerant of  regular cutting or grazing. Since quality declines rapidly  with age, USA Buffel grass pastures should be grazed sufficiently regularly and heavily to maintain in a leafy,  more nutritious stage.



Yields depend greatly on soil fertility and growing conditions, but are mostly in the range of 2–9 t/ha DM, and under ideal conditions, up to 24 t/ha DM. Crude protein values are mostly in the range of 6–16%, and IVDMD and crude protein digestibility from 50–60%, depending on age of growth, cultivar, and soil fertility  (incl. fertiliser use). P levels are usually higher than in other tropical grasses and range from 0.15–0.65% in the DM.


Animal production

Can carry up to 1 steer or 6 sheep/ha, depending on rainfall and soil fertility. Cattle can gain up to 180–200 kg/hd/yr at 2 ha/beast on fertile soils under good growing conditions. Generally less palatable than Panicum coloratum (Bambatsii Panic) and P. maximum (Gatton/Green panic).



Oxalate levels can cause ‘big head’ (Osteodystrophia fibrosa) in horses, and oxalate poisoning in young or hungry sheep. However, with soluble oxalate levels of 1–2% in the DM, there is rarely a problem with mature ruminants.


Pest / disease resistance

The most serious disease is buffel grass blight caused by the fungus, Magnaporte grisea (anamorph Pyricularia grisea), a rampant leaf spot disease that reduces quality and production of forage and seed, and in some cases, destroys stands. Pyricularia grisea is a highly variable pathogen and differential responses have been found to occur, with some varieties of Cenchrus ciliaris being resistant to the various races of the pathogen. Other fungal species causing damage are Fusarium oxysporum, Bipolaris sp., and Claviceps sp. Alternative host for Claviceps fusiformis is pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum).


Suggested sowing rates

Recommended planting rates for AgriCOTE Pro-Tech for  USA Buffel are:

Marginal dryland: 4 – 6kg per hectare

Good dryland: 8 – 12kg per hectare

Irrigated: 12 – 15kg per hectare







Disclaimer: The information presented in this brochure is from official and other sources and is considered to be reliable. It is provided in good faith and every care has been taken to ensure its accuracy. Barenbrug does not accept any responsibility for the consequences that may arise from the acceptance of recommendations or the suggestions made.

Tropical Grass

Any warm-season grass including species such as Paspalum, Rhodes grass, Digit grass, Panic grass, Kikuyu, Setaria etc.

Any warm-season grass including species such as Paspalum, Rhodes grass, Digit grass, Panic grass, Kikuyu, Setaria etc.

Any warm-season grass including species such as Paspalum, Rhodes grass, Digit grass, Panic grass, Kikuyu, Setaria etc.