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Ohio State University Extension


Sudangrass as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use sudangrass as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: that resemble the leaves of corn grow around single stem plants with greenish-colored seed pods branching off the top of the stem.


  • Wild leaves that resemble those of corn
  • Tillers extensively
  • Larger heads than Johnson grass with no underground rhizomes
  • Brown midrib available on some hybrids

Cultural Traits

  • Summer annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): May 20–Sept. 6
  • Upright growth habit: up to 8 feet
  • Preferred soil pH: 6.0–7.0
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop sudangrass.
Heat tolerance Excellent
Drought tolerance Excellent
Low fertility tolerance Good
Winter survival Winter-killed


  • Drilled at ½–1 inch
    • 15–20 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 18–24 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation is not recommended

Additional planting information:

  • 42,240 seeds per lb.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 4,000–8,000 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation

Additional performance information:

  • Sudangrass has excellent biomass production and rooting capability.
  • The branched, fibrous roots are excellent for building soil organic matter and reducing compaction.
  • There is potential for prussic acid poisoning in livestock when plants are stressed by drought or freeze.
    • Do not graze until plants are at least 18–36 inches.
  • Nitrate toxicity may be a problem when drought-stressed.
  • High moisture content at harvest can be a problem for silage.
  • Sudangrass does not host root knot nematode, soybean cyst nematode, and sugar beet cyst nematode.
  • Sudangrass does not tolerate flooding, ponding, or shade.
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop sudangrass.
Nitrogen scavenger Excellent
Soil builder Excellent
Erosion fighter Excellent
Weed fighter Excellent
Grazing Excellent
Quick growth Excellent
Lasting residue Very good
Mechanical forage harvest Excellent


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Chemical
  • Winterkill

Additional termination information:

  • Mowing after heading may terminate.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop sorghum-sudangrass.
Soil Impacts
Subsoiler Very good
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Compaction fighter Excellent
Nematodes Very good
Disease Very good
Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds) Excellent
Chokes weeds Excellent
Attracts beneficials Good
Bears traffic Very good
Short windows Excellent

Potential Disadvantages

Increased weed potential: could be a minor problem

Increased insects/nematodes: occasionally a minor problem

Hinders crops: could be a moderate problem

Mature incorporation challenges: could be a moderate problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red box with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Mar 31, 2023.