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Growing Perennial Ryegrass: Good for You, Good for Your Soil

Perennial ryegrass is more than just a grass crop. The short-lived, cool season plant comes with numerous benefits for growers — and their land.

You can pick perennial ryegrass out of a field by noticing its low-growing, bunch-type growing habits. It has short, leafless stems and a shallow, fibrous root system that allows it to grow vigorously in a number of climates.

Perennial ryegrass is a biennial crop, meaning it’s seeded one year, and harvested the next. The crop is commonly under seeded with wheat, oats, or LibertyLink® canola, and harvested the following season. When seeding the grass, BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist Jordan Schmidt recommends you do so at a rate of 8 lb/acre on dry land and at 10 lb/acre on irrigated land.

“One of the main benefits that come from growing perennial ryegrass is its ability to split up the fall workload,” said Schmidt.

Perennial ryegrass is ready to be harvested by late July or early August, so when your other crops are ready to come off in the fall, you have one less crop to worry about. Yields from the grass crop can also reach anywhere between 500 to 1,500 lb/acre, and Schmidt says even higher yields than that are achievable under irrigation.

The crop is a high nitrogen user, similar to wheat, so you want to ensure have a fertility plan in place to maximize its yield potential. Schmidt said plant growth regulators have shown many benefits for perennial ryegrass too, decreasing the plant height, reducing the lodging, and increasing the yield. And less plant biomass, in turn, allows for a faster harvest speed.

Perennial ryegrass is known to increase the organic matter in a field, which improves less productive or marginal soils. It has a high moisture requirement, which is why it’s well suited to areas like the parkland that receive more rainfall or does better under irrigation. The crop can adapt to a wide range of soils, though, tolerating pH levels from 4.5 to 8.4, with the optimum pH being between 5.5 and 7.5.

“It’s a really good rotation piece,” said Schmidt. “Perennial ryegrass is a cash crop that can extend the rotation of your fields, and ultimately reduce disease, insect, and weed pressure.”

To learn more about growing perennial ryegrass with BrettYoung, contact your local Seed Production Specialist.

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