Vegetative Stage

The vegetative stage is the first developmental stage after perennial grass establishment, resumption of growth in spring, and following defoliation. Tillers in this stage are characterized by leaf production that will provide high quality forage for grazing livestock. Harvesting of perennial grasses whether for forage or biomass energy production, however, is not recommended in this stage because little aboveground biomass has accumulated.  Following defoliation, vegetative tillers will produce new leaves as long as the shoot apical meristem or growing point remains intact. The growing point remains protected from grazing while at ground level.  Land managers should be cognizant of close grazing when stem elongation commences and the apical meristem is elevated in the plant canopy.  

Identifying tillers in vegetative stage is straightforward.  The tillers consist entirely of leaves, no nodes may be felt, and the shoot apex, i.e. the growing point, remains at ground level.  

Exhibit 4. Vegetative tiller of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardiiVitman) illustrating continual leaf formation while the shoot apical meristem (apex) or growing point remains protected from defoliation at ground level. Photo credit: John Guretzky, University of Nebraska-Lincoln