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Buffalo Grass Drought Tolerance

Buffalo grass drought tolerance and drought recovery are two very important factors to consider when choosing a new buffalo grass lawn. Most Australian homes can expect to go into water restrictions or even experience real drought once every few years or so based on past history.

Therefore when considering a buffalo lawn, we want to choose a lawn which has a high ability to withstand drought and stay alive during drought conditions. But even more importantly than this, we want to choose a buffalo lawn which has the greatest chance of repairing itself to become lush and green again as quickly as possible, and with the greatest chance of success of survival once drought conditions have ended.

These buffalo grass drought trials looked at drought tolerance and recovery rates for buffalo grass under 80% water replacement, 50% water replacement, and 33% water replacement.

In considering these trials, we take the position that 80% replacement would be equivalent to an average lawn in the average Aussie backyard where the owners try to keep on top of watering, but sometimes may forget to turn on the sprinkler.

We consider the 50% water replacement to be similar to a neglected lawn in an Aussie yard... we’ve all seen those!

And we consider the 33% water replacement trials to represent real drought conditions, and as such these are the most important trials of all when we are looking for the best drought tolerant buffalo grass.

Highest numbers represent fastest growth - Lowest numbers represent slowest growth.

Sir Walter







80% Water Replacement and Recovery

The 80% water replacement trial represents a very mild reduction in watering of the grasses, and would equate to a home lawn receiving slightly less than what would otherwise be average watering conditions.

These results vary very little from what are normal growth rates for these lawn types, so the recovery rates should be taken more as general growth rates for these grass brands rather than recovery rates - because the reduction in watering at 80% is so mild.

Therefore these results really shouldn’t come into our equations when looking at these grass types for drought tolerance and recovery.

From the charts we can see Palmetto and Shademaster have the slowest growth and recovery rates.

Sapphire and Matilda come in second for growth rates, while Sir Walter proves itself as the fastest growing buffalo grass here.

50% Water Replacement and Recovery

The 50% water replacement trial represents a significant lowering of standard watering to home lawns, and begins our process of taking notice of how these buffalo grasses begin to stack up against each other when facing some real pressure relating to their ongoing health.

Drought Tolerance:
Growth rates for Palmetto and Sapphire slowed considerably during 50% drought conditions, which is in line with their previous results of slowed growth during the 80% trial, and their overall slower growth rates compared to other buffalo grasses.

Sir Walter took a very big hit with its growth rates once drought conditions started hitting under the 50% control measures. Sir Walter went from a massive growth rate under 80% to drop to middle place just behind Palmetto and Sapphire.

Matilda and Shademaster both had the speedier growth rates under 50% water replacement conditions.

Drought Recovery:
Sapphire and Matilda recovered fastest after 50% drought conditions.

This was followed by Sir Walter and Palmetto, with Shademaster coming in last place.

33% drought are the real trials we need to consider as they most likely represent real water restriction conditions which many Australian lawns may face at one time or another. And as such, the homeowner would want to choose the buffalo grass which is most likely to survive and recover after drought conditions have ended.

Palmetto is clearly the winner in these trials by a very large margin to be the buffalo grass most likely to survive and repair with greatest success and speed over all other competitors.

Matilda came in second place for drought recovery while maintaining growth during drought conditions. This would equate to Matilda being the better grass for lawns which will experience heavier traffic conditions during time of drought or water restrictions.

33% Water Replacement and Recovery

Here’s where drought conditions get really tough, with lawns only receiving a third of their water requirements. These are real drought conditions that many Australians households can expect to experience with water restrictions at different times.

Therefore, these are the most important drought tolerance studies of them all.

So under worst case scenario of water restrictions or drought, lets see which buffalo grass reigns supreme.

Drought Tolerance:
Palmetto slowed its growth more than every other grass we compare by a massive margin under these severe drought conditions.

Shademaster and Sapphire were the next slowest growers under drought.

Sir Walter came in fourth and Matilda held the fastest growth rates under drought.

Now here is where these studies get really interesting. We should be expecting the same drought recovery from these buffalo grasses as is equivalent to their growth rates... but not so... lets take a look.

Drought Recovery:

Palmetto slowed its growth under severe drought conditions more than any other grass by a very big margin. Yet once drought conditions ended, Palmetto speeded up its repair rates to have the fastest repair rate after drought than all other grasses.

Matilda, continued consistently throughout these drought trials to be a solid repairer after drought as well, which is inline and to be expected from its faster growth rates under drought conditions.

This was followed by Shademaster and Sapphire.

With Sir Walter performing worst of all. In fact when we compare the winner - Palmetto - with Sir Walter, Palmetto recovered after drought 350% faster than Sir Walter.

When looking at these results, we also need to take into consideration the natural faster and slower growth rates between the different buffalo grasses - as we should expect that the fastest growing grasses would grow faster to repair themselves after drought. But this is not always the case.

When we look back to the 80% conditions, we can see Sir Walter and Matilda as being the fastest growing buffalo grasses, while all other grasses were about equal in growth rates.

However, under increased drought conditions it was Shademaster and Matilda which continued to have the better growth rates and tolerance, while Sir Walter slowed its growth massively to a level more comparable to Sapphire and Palmetto.

Matilda came in second place for drought recovery while maintaining growth during drought conditions. This would equate to Matilda being the better grass for lawns which will experience heavier traffic conditions during time of drought or water restrictions, provided thatch management is part of the maintenance.

Conclusion - Buffalo Grass Drought Tolerance

None of the lawns in these trials died under any of the drought conditions imposed by these limited trials, they all stayed alive and continued growth at varying rates, and they all repaired under very different rates of competency.

We must state again that the drought conditions which most likely resemble real world water restrictions or drought are the 33% drought trials which reduced watering levels to just a third of what buffalo grass requires for survival.

Palmetto is clearly the very big winner in these trials, by a very massive margin over the last place getter. And once drought conditions have ended, Palmetto will again slow its growth rates to become a low maintenance buffalo grass lawn.

Matilda came in second place as the next most drought resistant buffalo grass, and will be the buffalo most tolerant to traffic under drought. However, when we look back to the original 80% trials we can see Matilda has a faster growth rate under near normal watering conditions, so will again become a faster growing grass.

Shademaster and Sapphire compared closely, and will both return to slower growth rates once drought conditions have ended.

Sir Walter came in at a very poor last place, having the lowest possibility of recovery, and slowest repair rates after drought conditions have ended. And once Sir Walter does recover, we can see by the original 80% trials that Sir Walter can return to being the fastest growing and highest maintenance buffalo grass out of those we compare here.

Buffalo Grass Research:
Independent Buffalo Research was conducted by HAL and Qld Dept of Primary Industries, and sponsored by all major buffalo grass license holders in Australia... Read More...

How Did We Work Out The Drought Tolerance and Recovery Data:
We took test results for buffalo drought tolerance from the single plot site where these studies were undertaken, which was at Shenton Park, Western Australia, and reproduced them here. No averages were produced or required for these studies.

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