Cool Season Grass vs. Warm Season Grass for CRP

Establishing native grasses through CRP provides many benefits for both landowners and the environment. Native grasses protect soil from wind and rain while allowing it to regenerate precious nutrients. They also keep local water clean by reducing runoff. Meanwhile, local wildlife such as deer and pheasants depend on native grasses for shelter and food.  

Once you’ve successfully enrolled in CRP, you’ll need to decide on a seed mix. This includes determining whether you’ll establish native cool season grass, native warm season grass or both. While every state has native species in both categories, one is often preferable to the other depending on your specific region, soil condition, and overall objective. 

The primary differences between cool season and warm season grass are when they seed and what conditions are needed for proper germination. This plays an important role in when you should seed your CRP 

However, there are additional factors to consider when choosing a type of native grass. Let’s take a deeper look at both options. 

Cool Season Grass 

Cool season grass is popular for many lawns across the US, particularly in midwestern and northern states that experience longer springs and milder summers. Native cool season grasses can also work well for CRP establishment in these areas. 

As the name implies, cool season grass grows best in moderate temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. When seeding, cool season grass is capable of germinating in much colder temperatures than warm season grass. In fact, it can germinate in ground as cold as 35 degrees. Because of this, along with its shallower root base, cool season grass is able to fully establish in one to two years. 

In order to thrive, however, cool season grass needs moisture. Extended dry spells, as well as extreme heat, can be very damaging to cool season grass. Irrigation may be needed to help it survive.  

Along with being less resilient, cool season grasses are vulnerable to fungus and bacteria like endophyte. Endophyte can result in a number of issues for wildlife including: 

  • Feet and leg issues 
  • Weight gain (or loss) 
  • Reduced milk production 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Low rates of reproduction 
  • And more 

Warm Season Grass 

Though cool season grass is a viable option for many CRP contract holders, warm season grass has some distinct advantagesWarm season grass is highly resilient. Its roots run deep, enabling it to outlast extended droughts and extreme heat.  These roots also strengthen soil structure, reducing soil erosion.  

However, deeper roots take longer to grow. 

Warm season grasses generally take two to three years before they’re fully established. During this time, they are more vulnerable to weeds than cool season grasses typically are. Additional weed control measures may be needed. 

Once established, warm season grass is great for wildlife, particularly grazing livestock. Unlike cool season grasses, warm season grass doesn’t contain endophyte. In fact, steer grazing warm season grasses like switchgrass have better growth rates and higher yields of beef. 

Deciding What’s Best for You 

Choosing the best CRP seed mix to buy tends to be situational. Your location, the condition of your soil, and the conservation practice you’re enrolled in all play a factor. Equally important is the quality of seed you purchase.  

At All Native Seed, we provide CRP seed mixes that have been reprocessed for enhanced purity and higher germination rates. All of our seed has been tested for pigweed including Palmer amaranth and comes properly tagged for easy reporting. 

Not sure what type of seed you need? Our CRP experts are here to help answer any questions you might have. To contact us directly, click here. If you’d like to browse our in-house seed mixes, click here 

Whether you decide on cool season or warm season grass, you can trust you’ll get the highest quality seed available with ANS.