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By Shelly Paulocik

(If it's winter hardy, Matua may prove to be a very valuable variety for those wishing to extend their pasturing season. If it's not, other options are likely better.)

MATUA brome grass has received a lot of attention in recent years. Those wishing to extend their pasturing season, see its persistent fall growth as its main advantages. After several hard frosts (around -5C), Matua is still green and apparently palatable, even though tall fescue is usually already turning brown. In trials in Pennsylvania, it appears equivalent to orchard grass in terms of volume and quality. Another plus, Matua's drought tolerance appears to be as good as that of smooth brome.

However, it does have some drawbacks. Matua requires careful fall management to ensure adequate tillering. Apparently, only the tillers formed in late summer and early fall are the ones which survive the winter. To ensure adequate fall tillering, it appears that Matua can not be `stockpiled' for more that 50 days. This may limit its usefulness. The real question is Matua's winter hardiness here in Ontario. While some trails in Wisconsin and Michigan had 100% winterkill, results from other trails were promising.

Jim Johnston, at the (soon to be) New Liskeard Agricultural Research Station (formerly New Liskeard College of Agricultural Technology), is in the midst of trials with Matua. While he can't yet recommend this variety, he agrees it has some promise. Jim adds that if Matua isn't winter hardy, it isn't the best annual forage option. Given the price of seed and the seeding rates it requires, he feels that oats or barley may be better choices. Jim suggest those interested in Matua plant it on a trial basis only. Hopefully, Jim will be able to give us more details by the end of the year.

Hubert Earl is very enthusiastic about Matua's potential. Hopefully he'll outline some of his thoughts and experiences for us in our next newsletter. In the meantime, those wishing to try Matua can contact Corland Seeds in Guelph.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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