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Gamba grass
(Andropogon gayanus)

Gamba - illustration
  • tall grass for monsoon region
  • for low fertility soils
  • palatable
  • drought tolerant
  • fire risk if ungrazed.


Andropogon gayanus Kunth -
1 plant part with stem and leaf;
2 flowering stem.




Gamba grass cv. Kent can produce a big bulk of palatable feed in the monsoonal areas of north Australia. It is useful for planting in holding paddocks where it can feed a large number of cattle for a short time.

Kent was introduced into the Northern Territory for the seasonally dry tropics. These monsoonal areas receive 750-1500 mm of rainfall annually with a dry season of 6-9 months.

Gamba grass will grow on a wide range of soil types, from light sands to clay loams, but not on very heavy clays which become waterlogged. It can tolerate highly acid soils, and high levels of aluminium.

The leaf blades have a strong white mid-rib, and both surfaces are hairy. Gamba grass has a special root system with three types of roots: fibrous surface feeders, thick cord-like roots which store starch and anchor the plant, and long vertical roots which can extract soil water from depth well into the dry season.

As a result, Gamba grass comes away well to provide early growth at the start of the wet season, and remains green well into the dry season if grazed. As it is very palatable when green and stock graze it heavily, it is susceptible to overgrazing until well established, after which it can be very persistent.

Heavy grazing reduces the clumps to low crowns. Gamba grass must be managed well; if allowed to go to seed in April, the great bulk of 2-3 m high seed stems become a fire hazard when it dries in winter.

Being a clump species, Gamba grass will combine well with many twining and erect legumes, of which Seca stylo is the best adapted.

Gamba grass must be managed well; if allowed to go to seed in April, the great bulk of 2-3 m-high seed stems become a major fire hazard when it cures during the dry season.

However, because Gamba grass is so well adapted and sets large amounts of seed, it can naturalise. With the very hot fires generated altering the fire regime, it has the potential to become an environmental weed in the Northern Territory.

Creator: Ian Partridge
Date created: 03 April 1998  Revised: 15 January 2003

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