View Full Version : Where to get switchgrass?

09-08-2011, 02:23 PM
I'm thinking of planting around 10 acres total(multiple places)of switchgrass but I'm not sure what variety would grow best in my area(north central wisconsin)and provide the best stand once it snows? Once I decide on which SG variety suits me best then where would be a good place to get the seed from? Also what would be the cost per acre for the SG seed?


09-08-2011, 02:26 PM
Cave in rock will grow there and seems to be the "gold standard" for SG. I got mine at Ernst seed (ernstseed.com) as they had the cheapest when I bought it two years ago ($7/lb). I'd highly rec'd them they are quick to deliver and helpful over the phone. You can also order over email if you like.

09-08-2011, 04:14 PM
Check out this publication from the uwextension...


They did trials all over the midwest using some of the common cultivars of switchgrass.

It looks like for north central wisconsin, sunburst did the best (only slightly beating cave-in-rock). You might want to try a mix of the two.


09-08-2011, 04:25 PM
I'll be ordering some for the first time, this year, as well. Definately going with CIR, for my plantings, in West Central IL. Not sure, without really putting pen to pad, but I'm thinking I'll be ordering in the neighborhood of 65-70 lbs. I'd be interested in hearing more about seed sources, and seeing links to current price lists, if anyone has that stuff handy. Two years ago, when I was looking (but didn't buy), it was averaging $11-14/lb.

09-08-2011, 04:28 PM
We strictly plant Sunburst switch on our land (marquette county)and it has done very very well there in our extremely sandy soil. It seems to top out at 6-7', holds up well in deep snow (with maturity 3-4 years), maybe not quite as tall as CIR which i think can go up to 8'. However, Suburst is quite a bit less expensive than CIR from what I recall. My father always told me when selecting seed, it's best to select a seed that is sourced on the same or close to the same latitude of it's Origin. I know Suburst is I believe from one the of the Dakota's and fit that specification with our farm, thats why he chose it. When selecting a seed variety based on point of origin of latitude it's more likely to be adaptable to the same climates. If you need a price on Sunburst, call my dad (jim) at http://www.prairiefrontier.com (Southeast WI), tell him you are from QDMA for 10% off.

You could always mix varieties as well. Blackwell is another common variety. Good luck.

09-08-2011, 04:41 PM
This is an interesting graphic explaining the suitability of varieties based on climate/latitude:


And info about varieties and their origin:


Looks like 'Sunburst' is SD origin and 'Dacotah' and 'Forestburg' are ND varities. Depending how far north you are in Wisconsin, the ND varieties might be more suited. In order of popularity (and availability of seed) I think it would go sunburst > dacotah > forestburg. So you might have a harder time finding reasonable prices and suppliers of the ND varieties.


09-08-2011, 04:48 PM
I know my parents business has been supplying a lot of seed on large projects along the ND / Canada border, I can find out what they've been using on that project but i'm guessing it's sunburst switch included in a NWSG mix. Sunburst is the only variety of switchgrass they sell, I dont think you will have issues with it anywhere in Wisconsin honestly. I know they have customers buying the stuff all over the country (especially WI, MN, MI, Dakotas, PA, VA) and it has always done just fine. Just my 2 cents, but I think the same can be said for other varieties (like CIR), Switchgrass truly is a tough tough plant. It seems like it can grow anywhere.

However, again it's always good to find something the most adaptable for your area. Just like buying trees, if you are in Zone 3 don't buy something only hardy enough for zone 5, it will not help you be successful.

09-09-2011, 07:51 AM
Haven't planted any yet here in central WI, but plan to late this fall. This is who I am going through. They are located in MN.

This is what they recommend I plant that they have very good luck with.
3 lb/ac Switch Grass – Sunburst
2 lb/ac Big Bluestem – Bison
2 lb/ac Indian – Tomohawk
1 lb/ac Slender Wheat


09-09-2011, 08:18 AM
When planting NWSG I was always told to buy from a dealer in your region. You'll best bet would be to try to find someone from Minnesota or Wisconsin if you can and talk to them about it. I'm sure you could talk to your local agricultre extension service or DNR, Fish and Game etc. and find some information where they get there seed/ Yeah I think I would look at the company tkopke was looking at.

09-09-2011, 11:30 AM
Thanks for all the good links guys. Thats just what I was looking for and I'm thinking of going with sunburst SG. What would be a good solid seeding rate for broadcasting sunburst? I'm currently mowing the areas I want to plant and then I'm going to hit them with a dose of gly before seeding. The areas I'm planting are fairly rocky so I cant really work up the sites making broadcasting my only option. My only concern is some of the areas experiance some high water with the spring snow melts so I'm hoping that by planting this fall that the seed won't wash away. That is unless I can broadcast sunburst after the snow melt. Would that work?:confused:

09-09-2011, 11:50 AM
I think 5-10lbs per acre is probably a good rate depending on how crazy you want to go. I've seen some guys do 20lbs an acre and I think that is just a waste of money and seed. I think LickCreek recommends somewhere around 6lbs per acre but i would have to look that up in the switchgrass threads to confim.

In 2008 we drilled in sunbust in an 8acre field on April 18th and have a great stand. I dont think there is any problem waiting until after the snow is out. However, the sooner you can seed the better. If you can get some cold spells that can improve stratification of the seed.

Once you get that place mowed hit it with a HEAVY dose of GLY. In my experience, the sooner you can hit it and the longer there is to break down any thatch the better.


09-09-2011, 12:02 PM
Kyle at PLM suggested doubling the seeding rate if you are going to broadcast the seed. Not sure if this is the right way to do it but if I add up the recommended rates for my mix and just apply it to the sunburst then that would come up to 8 lbs/acre drilled. Broadcast would be 16 lbs/acre. I was also told I can add up to 1 lb/acre of wildflower seed with my mix of which I will be doing. From what Kyle told me and others confirmed here is it is too late to plant now. You donít want the seeds to germinate now, and then get killed in a few weeks by a frost/cold. I will be dormant seeding mine sometime this late fall (Nov. sometime). All dormant seeding is is spreading the seed late fall, winter, or very early spring and let the snow and thawing/freezing action bury the seed. PLM plants all of their fields they plant for people in the spring. They told me they plant the seed, and then hit the planting with chemical to kill any weeds/plants that are growing to help the grass establish. I donít know how soon after planting they do this though as I am not interested in using any chemicals. Kyle said the seed takes about 3 weeks to germinate. All their seed is also stratified so the reason you can plant in the spring and have it come up that year.

Again I have not planted yet. Just what I learned talking with them. They are very helpful. Give them a call, and tell them what you are looking to do. They will suggest what you need to do for your situation, and will answer whatever questions you have.

09-09-2011, 12:04 PM
sorry double post.

09-09-2011, 01:56 PM
16lbs/acre is way overkill IMO. To me that sounds like someone who just wants to oversell you seed. Broadcast or drill, thats more seed than you would need. Here's the thread to LickCreek's info, this information has been proven over and over.


"Quick Guide to switchgrass establishment:

Kill cool season grasses the year before by mowing in early August and spraying with 41% glyphosate in late August and add 2 ounces of Oust XP and one quart crop oil concentrate for added residual control. Re-spray any remaining re-growth in late September after remaining fescue seeds have time to germinate.

Townsend Chemical is a source for Oust XP and they will sell as little as 2 ounces at roughly $6 an ounce.

Planting RR soybeans the spring prior is the perfect way to prepare for switchgrass

Frost or dormant seed switchgass late December thru March with late January to mid February being the most effective time period. Broadcast or drill on frozen soils at 5-6#'s per acre.

Cave In Rock is a preferred variety for whitetail cover because it is tall and thick cover that stands up better in winter.

Spray glyphosate and atrazine (or simazine) by late April using 1 quart gly and 2 1/2 quarts atrazine on light soils, 4-5 quarts atrazine on heavy soils or a combination of atrazine and simazine. If weed growth is not present then adding gly is unnecessary, using Oust the fall before usually negates the need for gly in the spring.

Mowing may be required if any weed growth persists but keep mower raised 6-12" above the ground or it can damage or kill young switch seedlings."

09-09-2011, 02:32 PM
I'll be frost seeding 15 lbs. in 2 acres late this winter. Seed was bought from Ernst.

09-09-2011, 05:57 PM
Ok here's what I'm planning to do. Mow(about half done already), hit with a heavy dose of gly in the next week or so, broadcast as soon as the threat of high water subsides(I'm thinking early April)with the already stratified sunburst switchgrass from PLM at a rate of about 8 lbs/acre, then spray shortly after seeding with gly/atrazine. Sound good?:)

09-09-2011, 07:30 PM
i'm new to this forum but,my local PHEASENTS FOREVER chapter will plant 5 acers of switch grass for free,more than that you split the cost of the seed .