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Dactylis glomerata L.

Orchardgrass, Cocksfootgrass

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


This temperate grass is widely grown for pasture and hay in practically all temperate countries, and is cultivated in temperate regions of tropical and subtropical areas. It is considered to be one of the most important tropical forage grasses that is used for tame hay. Also grown for ground cover, and for lawns, particularly well adapted for growing under shade. A variegated form is occasionally cultivated for borders. Orchardgrass with its deep root system is Also useful for checking soil erosion.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be estrogenic (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). D. glomerata is a folk remedy for tumors, kidney and bladder ailments (Duke and Wain, 1981).


Per 100 g, the wet matter is reported to contain on a zero-moisture basis, 13.8 g protein, 4.3 g fat, 72.7 g total carbohydrate, 27.9 g fiber, 9.2 g ash, 53.0 mg Ca, 51.0 mg P, 23 mg Fe, 3440 mg K, 32 ug ß-carotene equivalent, and 0.17 mg thiamine (Miller, 1958). Gohl (1981) reports the following: per 100 g, wet matter (26.7% DM) is reported to contain on a zero-moisture basis, 12.6 g protein, 3.5 g fat, 74.9 g total carbohydrate, 33.1 g fiber, 9.0 g ash, 3.5 g ether extract, and 41.8 g N-free extract. Per 100 g, the hay (87.5% DM) is reported to contain on a zero-moisture basis, 16.1 g protein, 3.3 g fat, 68.4 g total carbohydrate, 37.7 g fiber, 12.2 g ash, 3.3 g ether extract, and 30.7 g N-free extract.


Long-lived perennial tufted grass, with deep root system, forming large tussocks; culms glabrous, erect, 15-140 cm tall; leaf blades scabrous, green or glaucous-green, 30-60 cm long, 5-10 mm broad; ligule deltoid, 7-12 mm long, hyaline; panicles erect, glomerate: of a few stiff branches, expanding in flower, afterwards appressed, 8-20 cm long, scabrous; spikelets in dense one-sided fascicles borne at ends of branches; spikelets 7-8 mm long, glaucous-green, 2-4 flowered; glumes lanceolate, acuminate, scabrous, the lower 7-nerved, 3-4 mm long, the upper 3-nerved, 5-6 mm long; lemmas 6-7 mm long; anthers 2-3 mm long. Fl. July-Aug., sometimes as early as May. Seeds 725,000 to 1,442,070/kg.


Reported from the Eurosiberian Center of Diversity, D. glamerata or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate drought, frost, high pH, heavy soil, heat, low pH, mine, sodium, photoperiod, poor soil, shade, slope, smog, virus and weeds (Duke, 1978). Numerous strains have been developed, some coarse and stemmy, others good for hay and early grazing. Local ecotypes in the Mediterranean region are adapted to long hot dry summers. In Europe two types have been developed, one for pasture and one for hay. Pasture types produce more basal leaves and generally are more spreading than the hay types. Selections made in Canada, Sweden and Finland are improved for winter hardiness. Improved strains are more leafy, persistent and later flowering than unimproved commercial types. Cultivars developed in the United States include the following: Able, Akaroa, Avon, Boone, Brage, Chinook, Clatsop, Dayton, Frode, Hallmark, Hercules, Jackson, Kay, Latar, Masshardy, Napier, Nerdstern, Pennmead, Pomar, Potomac, Rideau, S-37, S-143, Sandia, Sterling, Tardus II, and Virginia 70. (2n = 28, 14)


Temperate regions of Europe, Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rhodesia, S. Africa), Asia, Australia (NSW, Victoria, and other areas of S. Australia). and America (Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina).


Ranging from Boreal Moist to Rain through Subtropical Thorn to Moist Forest Life Zones, orchardgrass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3.1 to 17.6 dm (mean of 83 cases = 8.2) annual temperature of 4.3 to 23.8°C (mean of 83 cases = 10.7) and pH of 4.5 to 8.2 (mean of 83 cases = 6.3) (Duke, 1978, 1979). Adapted to humid temperate climates, naturalized in field and waste places. Grows on almost any type of soil, but thrives best on heavier types, as clays and clay loams. Less winter-hardy than Phleum pratense or Bromus inermis and does not extend as far north. Drought-resistant and will withstand high temperatures. Prefers areas with 480-750 mm annual rainfall, but will produce on rather poor dry soils. It may be grown irrigated.


Propagated by seed or by divisions. Seed is best prechilled at 3.5-10°C. Optimum temperature for germination is 20-30°C. Seed may be sown with ryegrass, meadow fescue, timothy or tall oatgrass. When sown as only grass in association with clovers, seed rate of 5-11 kg/ha is suitable; otherwise, seeding rate varies from 7-25 kg/ha. In the US, considerably higher seed rates are used in the southern areas, such as 17-22 kg/ha along with about 11 kg/ha Korean Lespedeza. Combines well with alfalfa. Such mixtures are of value for silage cut in summer followed by winter grazing; some times grass and alfalfa are sown in alternate rows, then a mixture of 3 kg/ha with 16 kg/ha alfalfa is recommended. To restrict tendency to form tussocks, it may be sown with grasses or legumes.


First cuttings are made about 5 months after sowing. Most useful for leys of 3-year duration and upwards. Seed retention is highest in plants that are summer dormant and possess many naked seeds when threshed. Summer grazed populations readily shed seed when ripe, and the seeds are enclosed in the glumes. Pastures can stand heavy grazing and will produce a continuous succession of young leaves. For hay, grass should be cut at full bloom; it becomes woody at later stages. Starts growth early in spring and continues well into summer. If cut for hay, it gives a good aftermath even in dry periods. It does not persist well under heavy continuous grazing and becomes coarse and unpalatable if undergrazed, developing into large tussocks. It is best suited for rotational grazing.

Yields and Economics

500 kg seed/ha (Duke, 1978). Extensively grown in Europe, Russia, India, the U.S. (Pennsylvania to N. Carolina, west to Iowa and Missouri), and elsewhere, as a major forage grass. Also grown for hay, pasture and silage in the northeastern United States west to the eastern Great Plains.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 2 to 37 MT/ha (8-10 in Australia, 2 in Bulgaria, 6-11 in Czechoslovakia, 10-11 in Denmark, 5 in France, 12 in Jamaica, 5-6 in Japan, 6-37 in Poland, 2-17 in Romania, 2-6 in Russia, 16-17 in Rumania). If soil fertility is low, a large portion of the total produciton occurs in the spring, but if the soil is highly fertile, production is well distributed throughout the growing season. Yields of hay, forage, or silage are generally very heavy, and may vary by as much as 20-fold.

Biotic Factors

The following fungi have been reported on Orchardgrass: Acrosporium compressum, Alternaria tenuis, Ascochyta graminicola, Calonectria nivalis, Claviceps microcephala, C. purpurea, Colletotrichum graminicola, Curvularia inaequalis, Dermatium hispidulum, Didymella exitialis, Dilophospora alopecuri, Dinemasporium graminum, Entyloma crastophilum, (Leaf smut), E. dactylidis (Leaf smut), Epichloe typhina, Erisyphe graminis and f. spp dactylidis, Fusarium acuminatum, F. avenaceum, F. culmorum, F. poae, F. scirpi var. acuminatum, F. tricinetum forma poae, Gibberella saubinetii, G. zeae, Griphosphaeria nivalis, Helminthorium sativum, H. sorokinianum, H. triseptatum, Helotium flexuosum, Hendersonia triticina, Leptosphaeria culmorum, L. culmicola, L. eustoma, L. michotii, L. microscopica, L. typharum, Lophodermium arundinaceum, Marssonia graminicola, Mastigosporium rubricosum, M. calvum, Mycosphaerella dactylidis, Oidium monilioides, Ophiobolus herpotrichus, Ovularia puchella, Phyllachora graminis, Phyllosticta owensii, Pleospora herbarum, P. infectoria, P. trichostoma, Puccinia dactylidina, P. coronata, P. coronifera f. spp. avenae, f. spp. tritici and var. phlei-pratetensis, P. phlei-pratensis, P. gulmarum, P. rubigovera, Pythium aristosporum, P. debaryanum, P. graminicola, P. tardicrescens, Pyrenochaeta terrestris, Rhynchosporium orthosporum, Rh. secalis, Sclerotinia borealis, S. graminearum, Scolecotrichum graminis, Selenophoma donacis and var. stomaticola, Septoria sp., S. oxysporum var. culmorum, S. tritici Stagonospora arenaria, S. maculata, S. subseriata, Synchytrium sp., Tubucinia dactylidina, Typhula itoana, T. phacorrhiza, Uromyces dactylidis, U. striiformis, Ustilago salvei, U. striiformis, Vermicularia affinis, Wojnowicia graminis, Bacteria isolated from this grass causing disease include: Corynebacterium rathayi, Pseudobacterium rathayi, and Pseudomanes coronafaciens var.atropurpurea. Virus diseases include cocksfoot mottle virus, cocksfoot streak virus, barley yellow dwarf virus, grass orchard mosaic, and ryegrass mosaic. It also parasitized by Cuscuta epithymum and Striga lutea. Nematodes isolated from Orchardgrass include the following species: Ditylenchus dipsaci, Helicotylenchus dihystera, H. pseudorobustus, Heterodera avenae, Hoplolaimus galeatus, Meloidogyne arenaria, M. incognita acrita, M. javanica, M. naasi, Paratylenchus penetrans, P. neglectus, Subanguina radicicola, Trichodorus christie, Tylenchorhynchus claytoni, Xiphinema americanum (Golden, p.c., 1984).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
last update July 9, 1996