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Seed Production Diversifying Farms

When Tyrell Penner first seeded perennial ryegrass in 2019, he didn’t expect the crop to become a staple on his farm by Grassy Lake, Alberta. Penner mainly grows pulse and oilseed crops — he was first interested in growing perennial ryegrass to add something to his rotation that didn’t host the same diseases as his other crops.

Crop rotation is known as the best crop management practice. It can improve yields, reduce disease issues, replace soil nutrients, and it lets you rotate through herbicides. Penner said he deals with a lot of white mold in his crops, but that’s improved since he’s been growing perennial ryegrass.

When he decided he was going to add the grass to his rotation, Penner chose BrettYoung.

“My neighbours had good things to say,” he said. “It was word of mouth. The first year I worked with BrettYoung, they treated me really well, our relationship’s been good, the knowledge has been good, so I stayed with them.”

Penner’s successful 2019 perennial ryegrass crop was seeded the year prior. The crop is in the ground for two years — the first is for establishing and the second is for harvest, resulting in one year of seed production. You can seed it in spring or fall, but Penner prefers the ladder as the crop overwinters better. Seeding perennial ryegrass in the fall, he said, leaves more room for issues, whereas the spring plant gives him a vigorous crop.

“It’s a perennial so you want good seedling establishment,” he said. “The following year you want it to grow big with lots of seed.”

He said a good perennial ryegrass crop will be just in between thick and thin. If the crop is too thick, it gets root bound, but if it’s too thin, it gets patchy, both outcomes giving you a lower yield.

“You want a good, even stand,” said Penner. “Like any crop, if it has dead patches, it won’t reach its yield potential.”

He added the crop is fairly easy to establish, doesn’t volunteer, and is easy to remove after harvest. Another thing Penner likes about growing perennial ryegrass is it isn’t just a crop he uses for rotation — it’s a cash crop.

“It’s one of our more profitable crops on the farm,” he said. “And any crop responds well to a longer rotation so by expanding to a four-year rotation, I’ll get better yields on my other crops too.”

BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist Jordan Schmidt said perennial ryegrass has an earlier harvest than most crops — late July or early August — so it splits up the workload for growers. The crop also increases organic matter, improving less productive or marginal soils. Perennial ryegrass can also be seeded with a companion crop, so in its establishing year, you don’t lose production in that field.

Penner likes perennial ryegrass, and he likes growing it with BrettYoung.

“They are always phone call away for help,” he said. “Any questions are always promptly answered. There’s been good support, which is appreciated.”

Schmidt said the quality of the seed is what determines the price the grower receives. Quality is measured in terms of weed seed contamination, germination, and purity.

“Seed Production for BrettYoung can stretch out your rotations and be a profitable crop on your farm,” said Schmidt. “There are more options than perennial ryegrass, like tall fescue, alfalfa, and timothy, so it’s a great way to diversify your farm.”

To learn more about BrettYoung Seed Production, click here.

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