Agronomic characterization of Paspalum atratum Swallen and P. lenticulare Kunth.
Paspalum atratum and P. lenticulare are perennial grasses, native to South America. The objective was to evaluate seasonal growth, frost tolerance, cattle preference, nutritional characteristics, seed yield and germination of 11 ecotypes of P. atratum and P. lenticulare with regard to their potential as alternatives to introduced species. Forage yield was evaluated during 3 growing seasons between 2011 and 2014. Digestibility and CP concentration were assessed in summer 2014, cattle preference in winter 2013 and summer 2015, frost tolerance after the first frosts in June 2012, flowering time during 2013 and 2014 and seed yield and germination in 2014. A marked warm-season growing period was observed for both species with annual forage yields varying from 5 to 12 t DM/ha. Flowering did not occur until autumn, with mean seed yield of 280 kg/ha and germination of 16% for P. atratum and 19% for P. lenticulare. Most ecotypes were able to tolerate winter temperatures and behaved as perennials. Although no differences were observed for DM digestibility and CP concentration among accessions, cattle preferentially grazed accession P. atratum U44. Further studies are needed to evaluate persistence under grazing and animal performance.