Ecology and Production of Annual Ryegrass
- G. W. Evers,
- G. R. Smith and
- C. S. Hoveland
Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) is a popular component of pasture systems in the southeastern USA because it is easy to establish, has high forage quality and is adapted to a wide range of soil types. Nonforage uses include turf, roadside stabilization, and winter cover crop in crop rotations. It is planted in pure stands, mixed with small grains and with clovers (Trifolium sp.) to provide forage during winter and spring. Optimum planting time is September on prepared seedbed or October if overseeded on a warmseason perennial grass in the southeastern USA. Recommended seeding rates are often 28 kg ha−1 in pure stands and 22 kg ha−1 in mixtures with small grains or clover. Under favorable temperature and moisture conditions, annual ryegrass is very responsive to N fertilizer that is split in two to four applications during the growing season. When overseeded on warm-season perennial grasses with clovers a single N application in early winter is often recommended to limit ryegrass competition to the clover. Stocking rate guidelines are 700 kg ha−1 animal weight in winter and 1400 to 2100 kg ha−1 in spring; however, optimum stocking rate will vary with management and climate. Annual ryegrass can be managed for natural reseeding by terminating grazing when seedheads first appear and reducing warm-season grass competition the following autumn by close grazing or light disking. Annual ryegrass is an impressive high-quality forage plant. It can be established without seedbed preparation, grows on a wide range of soil types, persists across a range of environmental conditions, and tolerates intensive use by grazing livestock. Annual ryegrass, also called Italian ryegrass, is indigenous to southern Europe with reports of it being grown in meadows of northern Italy as early as the thirteenth century. It was brought to America in early colonial days (Holt, 1976). Its earliest use for pasture in the southeastern USA is not known. Wheeler and Hill (1957) reported the average annual seed production of common (annual) ryegrass from 1939 to 1945 was 15 million kilograms. It is assumed that a large portion of this seed was shipped to the southeastern USA. At the time of their report they stated that commercial seed production of annual ryegrass in the USA was <25-yr old. This indicates that expanded use of annual ryegrass in the USA probably began in the 1930s.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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