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Uses For Annual & Gulf Annual Ryegrass
There are nearly 3 million acres of Annual & Gulf Annual Ryegrass in the United States, with about 90 percent used for winter pasture in the Southeast. About 80 percent of this ryegrass pasture is established by overseeding into warm season perennial grasses to extend the grazing season. Annual Ryegrass is also grown for silage and hay on poorly drained soils where small grains are not adapted.
In the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, Annual Ryegrass is used to inter-seed corn and other row crops to absorb excess nitrogen, reduce erosion after row crop harvest and provide winter feed. In the northern United States and Canada it is grown as a summer annual, typically as a quick cover lawn grass. Often it serves as a "nurse" crop for the slower germinating and establishing lawn grass species.
Rye Grass is also used for roadside stabilization, as a cover crop for reducing soil erosion and as a green manure crop to provide organic matter for improved soil structure.
Rye grass is a very eco-friendly grass as it gives back to the soil and eliminates the need for chemicals to control nematodes. Interestingly, Annual Ryegrass is also used for fish feed in China. Grass-eating species of carp are fed hand-harvested Annual Ryegrass.
Gulf Annual Ryegrass Use For Turf or Lawns
Annual Ryegrass is quick to germinate and is often used to overseed the warm-season grasses. The warm-season turf is sometimes mowed lightly to allow the ryegrass seed to get good soil contact, but the seed is often just spread on top of the established turf and watered in. Annual Ryegrass is lighter green and slightly coarser than perennial ryegrass. It is also less heat-tolerant than perennial. This could be an advantage for overseeding since Annual Ryegrass should disappear before it interferes with the growth of the warm season grass. Warm season grasses go dormant during the winter months and can be overseeded with a cool season grass variety to maintain green color and adequate quality.
Annual Ryegrass, perennial ryegrass or rough bluegrass are the standard grasses used for overseeding. The best time to overseed the home lawn is mid to late October, but more accurately after the first frost. Annual Ryegrass is the fastest germinating of the three varieties and often the least expensive. Annual and perennial ryegrass both grow quickly, especially during late fall and early spring. Their water use rates are moderate and fertility requirements are low, maybe one to two pounds of nitrogen over the winter months.
Overseeding Rate For Lawns With Annual Ryegrass
You should overseed with annual ryegrass at a rate of about 10-12 pounds of seed per thousand square feet and keep the lawn irrigated for several weeks to insure germination.
To Overseed Southern Lawns
Additional Annual & Gulf Annual Ryegrass Facts
- May be sown under unfavorable wet or dry conditions
- Normally germinates in a matter of 7-10 days
- If sown under dry conditions, normally germinates after the first solid rain
- Always in excellent supply and competitively priced
- Vigorous fall and spring growth
- Left uncut Annual Ryegrass grows to a height of 2-4 feet
- Annual Ryegrass is eco-friendly
- Annual Ryegrass will get rid of nematodes - eliminating the need for chemicals
Annual Ryegrass Use in Pastures
Annual or Gulf Annual ryegrass is highly desirable to all types of grazing livestock. Either Oregon-grown common Annual Ryegrass or Gulf Annual Ryegrass will provide cattlemen with an additional six to eight months of abundant, nutritious pasture which will see a young cow continue to grow and gain while nursing a calf. Annual Ryegrasses may be sown alone or in combination with legumes or small grains. For decades the Annual Ryegrasses have demonstrated the ability to produce high quality forage which will not go dormant or off color through the chill of winter and remain productive on into the spring. Normally, Annual Ryegrass germinates in a matter of 7-10 days or even less in ideal conditions. Sowing dates vary according to area. Some growers prefer to winter seed pastures after the first killing frost as a means of eliminating competition from native grasses. Others prefer to sow earlier to give the Ryegrass seedlings an opportunity to flourish while the ground is still warm.
While soil fertility and weather conditions are determining factors, light grazing of a ryegrass pasture is often possible in about 90 days after sowing. Some farm operators feel light grazing can begin when the new grass is 4-5 inches high, while others wait for greater growth so that the new plants will not be uprooted by grazing animals. Because Annual Ryegrass quickly develops a strong root system it helps prevent bogging in moist areas and stabilizes precious topsoil.
Recommended rates of nitrogen application and other fertilizers vary according to soil conditions and the region but, in general, applications of up to 150 pounds per acre at or before planting are desirable.
Annual Ryegrass Pasture Advantages
- Normally supports a growing cow and calf per acre
- May be sown on existing sod, clean-burned stubble or land not plowed or otherwise prepared
- May be sown under unfavorable wet or dry conditions
- Oregon-grown Annual and Oregon-grown Gulf Annual are considered disease-tolerant
- Does not present endophyte fungus problems as do some tall fescues
- Recovers rapidly from overgrazing and trampling
- Usually germinates in 7-10 days
- Eliminates the need for chemicals to control nematodes - as annual ryegrass will eliminate nematodes
Annual Ryegrass pastures are used for stocker cattle, replacement heifers and lactating dairy cows. Its strong seedling vigor, high yield and high quality also make it valued for temporary pastures in the coastal Northwest. Although Annual Ryegrass grows quickly and is highly productive, its short-lived and aggressive nature make it less desirable in permanent pasture mixes.
Annual Ryegrass Used For Silage & Hay
Annual Ryegrass often is harvested for silage and hay production. The high production capacity of this grass makes it popular for additional feed when short hay supplies are expected. As with all forage species, silage quality is influenced greatly by maturity stage at harvest. For the optimal compromise between quality and quantity, cut Annual Ryegrass in the boot to early-heading stage. Harvesting Annual Ryegrass for hay is not recommended in high rainfall/humidity areas such as the coastal Pacific Northwest. Good hay-curing weather typically occurs too late in this region for producing high-quality Annual Ryegrass hay.
Annual Ryegrass For Wildlife Forage
Annual Ryegrass is an excellent wildlife feed and is commonly used in wildlife food plots. Forage provides high-quality grazing and a quick source of energy for geese, coots, widgeons
and other ducks, wild turkeys, rabbits, deer and elk.
Annual Ryegrass is often used as a stand alone crop or in a wildlife food plot seed mixture.
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Information above provided courtesy of:
Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission.
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