Italian and Annual Ryegrasses in Cropping Systems

Italian ryegrass is a vigorous biennial grass that is most often managed as an annual crop when used as a cover, companion, or forage crop in northern climates. The forage quality and yield potential are extraordinary when appropriate cultivars are selected and intensively managed. For rapid and consistent establishment, ryegrass seeds should be planted on the shallow side of the ¼ - ½ inch depth range. For companion crop applications with perennial pasture and hay crop seedings, ryegrass should be seeded at no more than 2-4 pounds per acre. Higher rates may out-compete the perennial grasses and legumes. While winter survival is possible if temperatures are moderate and/or snow-cover is adequate, Italian ryegrass should be managed as a spring annual. For haylage production, ryegrass should be seeded early in the spring at of 25-40 pounds per acre. Annual and Italian ryegrass have recently received more attention from farmers, university researchers, and the agricultural industry. Primary uses for this crop include: annual haylage crop, companion crop for new seedings of perennial forages (i.e., instead of oats), cover cropping, pasture enhancement, and erosion control. Under good management, ryegrass forage yield and quality are typically very impressive. Like most tools, if used properly it can be very profitable; if used improperly, this species can cause economic damage. Because of the similarities and between these grasses, the term ‘ryegrass’ will be

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