The response to shade in growth and nutritive quality of buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) was compared with that of two other stoloniferous grasses, mat grass (Axonopus compressus) and kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum). The grasses were grown outdoors in Brisbane, Australia, in soil in pots over two growing seasons in 1985/86. Treatments in the first season (Expt 1) were shading at 0 (full sun), 42, 59 and 68% with moderate N (two spaced applications of 50 kg/ha) and, in the second season (Expt 2), 0 and 59% shade with high (50 kg/ha every 2 weeks) and low (5 kg/ha every 2 weeks) N.
Unusually for tropical grasses, the top yield of all species was higher under shade than in full sun, except for S. secundatum at high N in Expt 2. S. secundatum and A. compressusshowed an increase in top yield up to 68% shading whereas P. clandestinum reached a maximum at 42% shading. Shade increased shoot:root ratio and specific leaf area in all species but had little effect on leaf:stem ratio and the proportion of dead material in the tops. Stubble yield (stem bases and stolons) was reduced under shade but to a much smaller extent than root yield. S. secundatum and A. compressus had similar morphological characteristics. Their yield was lower than that of P. clandestinum in Expt 1 (autumn growth) but was similar to that of P. clandestinum in Expt 2 (summer growth). These grasses had a higher leaf:stem ratio and lower proportion of dead material in tops than P. clandestinum.
Shade generally increased herbage nutritive value through an increase in N concentration and drymatter digestibility. The latter response was somewhat variable and mostly small (1–3% units). Under shade, the general trend was towards a decrease in total nonstructural carbohydrates, cell-wall content and insoluble ash, and an increase in lignin content. A. compressus was higher in digestibility and soluble carbohydrates than the other grasses.
S. secundatum was not clearly superior in response to shade and its nutritive quality was lower than that of A. compressus.