UNL CropWatch April 4, 2011 Perennial Ryegrass Best Used in a Mixture

UNL CropWatch April 4, 2011 Perennial Ryegrass Best Used in a Mixture

April 4, 2011

We always are looking for that perfect grass, and some folks seem to think they have found it with perennial ryegrass.

Perennial ryegrass is the highest quality forage grass throughout the world. Wherever it’s adapted and grows well, nothing produces more beef or milk or wool per acre than perennial ryegrass. In pasture-dominated regions, like New Zealand, Ireland, and England, perennial ryegrass
clearly is the species of choice.

So. why isn't it used more here? The key word is "adapted". Perennial ryegrass thrives in a moist, mild-temperature climate. It can survive quite cold winter temperatures, but it hates hot weather, especially if it also is dry. With its shallow root system, lengthy periods of dry soil in summer and winter cause severe stand loss.

In Nebraska the hot, dry summers and sometimes the dry, exposed winters cause persistence problems for ryegrass. While it may not last long in dryland pastures, it may work as part of a mix in irrigated pasture, especially where high quality grasses are needed for yearlings or dairy cows. 

If mixing in ryegrass, be prepared to reseed every few years.

While pure stands of perennial ryegrass may still be risky in Nebraska, a better option may be to include it in a mix, irrigated, and be prepare to reseed occasionally.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist