Adaptability and productivity of some warm-season pasture species in a Mediterranean environment.
Warm-season grasses and legumes have the potential to provide forage throughout the Mediterranean summer when there are high temperatures and low rainfall and when cool-season grasses become less productive. Twenty-nine non-native, warm-season pasture species (twenty-three grasses and six legumes) were assessed for their adaptability to the coastal plain of southern Italy in terms of their productivity and nutritional quality. The investigated species were compared with two reference species widely used in a Mediterranean environment: a grass (Festuca arundinacea) and a legume (Medicago sativa). The species differed in their phenological and biological characteristics, i.e. start of vegetative resumption, first flowering and cold resistance, from each other and from the control species. From the second year after establishment, warm-season perennial grasses had high dry-matter (DM) yields and, in many cases, a more than adequate nutritional quality. As for legumes, the control, M. sativa gave the best results in all the investigated characters. Among the grasses, seven species (Chloris gayana, Eragrostis curvula, Panicum coloratum, Paspalum dilatatum, Pennisetum clandestinum, Sorghum almum, Sorghum spp. hybrid) had DM yields greater than the control species and had their maximum growth during the hottest period of the year, when F. arundinacea, the control grass species, was dormant. Eragrostis curvula had the highest annual DM yield (21.1 t ha-1) and P. clandestinum provided the best combination of agronomic and yield characteristics which were similar to those of M. sativa. The seven above-mentioned species have the potential to supply hay or grazing and contribute to broadening and stabilizing the forage production calendar in Mediterranean-type environments.