University of Missouri Extension

M181, New February 2012

Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage

Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.)

Cool-season grasses

Reed canarygrass is a tall, coarse, rhizomatous perennial grass. Its most distinctive characteristic is that it will survive on poorly drained soils or under flooded conditions better than any other cool-season grass. It is also drought-tolerant because of its deep and extensive root system. Reed canarygrass is nutritious in its vegetative state but becomes coarse and unpalatable as it matures. Old cultivars contain several alkaloids that can depress animal performance. However, many new cultivars have lower levels of these compounds. Many producers find reed canarygrass difficult to establish because the seeds often germinate slowly and irregularly. However, once established, it will out-compete other grasses in a mixed pasture. It can be quite useful if grazing begins early in the season and it is kept in its vegetative form.

Reed canarygrassReed canarygrass

Yield distributionYield distribution of annual Kentucky in Missouri.

Seed head
Seed head

Collar region
Collar region


M181 Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage | University of Missouri Extension

Order publications online at or call toll-free 800-292-0969.

University of Missouri Extension - print indicia