Tag Archives: management of annual ryegrass

Planting Annual Ryegrass This Fall?

For those already employing annual ryegrass in the mix of your cover crops, this information will be redundant. For those new to cover crops, here are a couple of free publications to guide your first efforts.

ARG in Quebec - November photo

1. The Benefits of Annual Ryegrass.

2. Management Guide for Planting and Managing Annual Ryegrass

3. Cover Crops for “Prevented Acres”. This is another in a series of posts about why cover crops make sense. It is from the Midwest Cover Crops Council, a valuable resource for good, current information about cover crops and soil biology. The first paragraph from that publication is pasted below:

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) recommends the use of cover crops for prevented plant acres when feasible for several reasons. Cover crops can be a good way to take advantage of an otherwise unfortunate situation. A full season cover crop is a great opportunity to improve soil health and function. Cover crops can help to reduce soil erosion and compaction, capture nutrients, fix nitrogen, suppress weeds, moderate soil moisture, and build soil health. Benefits accomplished with these cover crops will put farmers at an advantage for the following cash crop and for years to come. A full season legume cover crop can provide considerable nitrogen for next season’s corn crop. This is also a good opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of a diverse cover crop mix. Mixing species is a good way to compound the benefits from multiple species.

The Glyphosate Issue Continues to Heat Up

It was generally thought that glyphosate was safe for use around humans and animals. Scientists generally agreed that it was not carcinogenic, largely because the molecule is not soluble in fat and thus cannot be stored.

Nonetheless, several juries have awarded tens of millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs who claimed Roundup caused their cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma). They based their case on a World Health Organization (WHO) study.

Other recent studies have found indications that long term exposure to application and use of glyphosate (perhaps in combination with other agents found in Roundup, Touchdown, or other proprietary brands of herbicides) could provide a weak link to a type of leukemia, although another study countered an earlier finding that glyphosate has a weak link to lymphoma (the WHO study.)

RoundUp logo

At issue, among other things, is whether it is the glyphosate itself, or glyphosate in combination with other active  (non-toxic) chemicals that creates toxicity. A recent article in The Scientist magazine sheds considerable light on the subject, although conclusions are still scarce.  Vanessa Fitsanakis, an 8th generation farmer herself, as well as a neurotoxicologist at Northeast Ohio Medical University, has met and discussed the matter extensively with scientists who defend the safety of glyphosate. Here’s a quote from the article: “Fitsanakis says that while presenting her work publicly, scientists from Monsanto or Syngenta will occasionally show up and politely challenge her research. ‘The scientists that I have spoken to from Monsanto and Syngenta are very convinced that the glyphosate by itself is nontoxic. I agree with them on that. Where I disagree . . . is that you can have an active ingredient that is nontoxic, but that does not mean that the commercial formulation is also nontoxic.’”

She goes on to say that exposure to glyphosate-based compounds may not cause diseases including cancer or Parkinson’s. But, she added, “They may be one of many risk factors that predispose people to developing sporadic forms of Parkinson’s disease in later life. And when that person with [a] genetic risk factor encounters something in the environment, like a pesticide that inhibits mitochondria, then those things together [can start] a neurodegenerative process.”

The public pressure may eventually mean a switch to other forms of weed control. Here’s an article, from North Carolina State Extension, that lists some other products – not as inexpensive nor always as effective as Roundup – but ones that may be waiting for use if and when Roundup and other glyphosate products become more difficult or illegal to apply.

Once The Floods Recede!

Geez, Louise! Another crappy winter leading into a way too damn damp Spring!

When the water recedes, many conventional tillers will be faced with another plague: erosion.

All the damage – washouts, drain tiles plugged, and the value of land washing on down the Mississippi!

In addition to damage to homes, barns, roads and bridges (and the extra cost to import and export product via detours!), farmers have to deal with the prospect of a late spring planting.

Image result for image grass in flooded land

Perhaps those who have practiced no-till and cover crops will sigh a bit of relief, if the soil is still on their property when the flood waters drop again. The sight of green grass or legume popping up above the leftover silt and muck will be like a day of sun. Cover crops on the field can be like money in the bank, and erosion protection is just the beginning. Here’s more info on planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop in the spring, if you want to start a new tradition on your land.

Click here for a free booklet on the management of annual ryegrass as a cover crop.

In the next month, those with cover crops will be “managing” their annual ryegrass. Managing, in this sense, means killing it with some form of glyphosate. It’s very important for this step to be done right; if it’s not, it can become a weed and a very robust one at that.

But, take heart, in the 20 plus years of our working with farmers throughout the Midwest, in New England, in the Upper and western Midwest, and in the southern-central provinces of Canada, paying attention to the details of spring cover crop management pays dividends immediately. The residual nitrogen becomes food for the young corn plants, for example. And the rotting annual ryegrass roots make room for corn roots to grow deeper into the soil, adding a layer of protection in the event of a dry summer. Finally, the massive decaying roots of cover crops feed untold gazillions of microbio life forms that contribute to healthier soil.

Best wishes to those of you with water on your property…may the Lord be merciful to you and your families! And when the water drops, consider going down to the Coop and checking out cover crops for protecting your property investment for the next go round. You may decide that trying out a small plot this spring – seeded into knee-high corn (interseeding method) will be this year’s innovation.

 

 

Videos about Successful Annual Ryegrass Planting and Forage Applications

Two of the most popular videos on the Ryegrass Cover crop YouTube site are:

In the first, Mike Plumer and others talk about the basics of no-till with cover crops. Mike, the late (and great granddad of cover crop reintroduction in the Midwest) Illinois agronomist, was instrumental in getting farmers to try cover crops. He was also among the first to begin to quantify the economic and environmental benefits of annual ryegrass.

Video frame - Annual Ryegrass

In the second, Don Ball and Garry Lacefield introduce the basics of developing a successful forage program on your farm. In this segment, they talk about annual ryegrass, because of its ease of development and its superior nutrition. Dr. Ball is a professor emeritus from Auburn University; Dr. Lacefield is a professor emeritus from the University of Kentucky. The pair wrote a very popular book: Southern Forages, now in its 4th printing.

Video - Forage Keys to Profitability

While you’re checking out these basics, you might also want to check out other free resources on the annual ryegrass website. Click here.

Cattle Ranchers Talk Cover Crops and Forage on Their Feedlots and Farms

Shane and Shawn Tiffany are young, energetic Kansas ranchers, who earned their stripes working for other ranchers before starting their own company in the early 2000s.

Cattle and cover crops

Tiffany Cattle Company is small by comparison, but the men have already begun to attract attention for their integrity, attention to detail and innovation.

Next month, Shawn will be a key presenter at the 2019 National Cover Crop Summit, March 20-21, 2019 — a free-to-attend online event featuring a series of seminars by experts across the cover crop spectrum.

It may come as a surprise to some, but the old fashioned feedlot has changed. Ranchers seek pasture grazing to bring healthier diets, as well as lowering their costs for supplemental feed. Shawn’s company raises 32,000 cattle at a time in two locations west of Topeka. They’ve found that cover crops are both sensible and profitable, they also help to rebuild prairie soil depleted from years of tillage and compaction.

In a search of the internet on the subject of cattle and cover crops, there is a surprising diversity in usage throughout the country. Here’s a story from a 1,100 acre ranch/farm in South Dakota, where Jared Namken raises Angus beef. He says rotational grazing allows him to use the entire acreage most of the year, even with heavy snow cover. He says the cattle will dig through the snow to get to the tasty vegetation.

Nancy Peterson and her husband graze cattle on about 4,000 acres of native grasslands in Nebraska, and  farm 2,300 acres. They use little to no irrigation and the area is dry; annual precipitation is less than 16 inches.

Getting back to the 2019 National Cover Crop Summit, March 20-21, 2019 , here are some of the other notable presenters:

  • Steve Groff, Common mindsets for cover croppers, cover crop consultant, Pennsylvania
  • Tom Cotter, Interseeding cover crops for grazing benefits, f

    armer, Minnesota

  • Paul DeLaune, Extending cover crop benefits in continuous wheat and cotton rotations, Texas A&M Univ.
  • Rob Myers, How cover crops impact farm profits, SARE/USDA
  • Erin Silva, Rolling cover crops in no-till systems, Univ. of Wisconsin Organic Ag.
  • Damon Reabe, Seeding cover crops aerially, even in spring, Cover crop applicator
  • Chris Teachout, Alternative row spacing and biomass-building with cover crops, farmer, Iowa

Nitrogen and Carbon – Two More Benefits of Annual Ryegrass

In the last blog post, we addressed the myth of annual ryegrass being hard to manage. Follow good control procedures and it is not an issue whatsoever.

Two other assets of annual ryegrass: it creates a savings in expenditures for nitrogen during the season, and it adds considerably to the organic matter in your soil, thus boosts your carbon uptake in the soil as well.

soil pit2

First thing: nitrogen is a key to production. In years past, when cultivation was more popular, nitrogen was increasingly important and expensive. Now, with annual ryegrass as a cover crop, you can actually plan on reducing your nitrogen input. Why? Because annual ryegrass sequesters available nitrogen in the soil during it’s growth. Then, when it’s terminated in the spring, the residue gives up the stored nitrogen, often just in time for the new crop of corn. In many cases, having annual ryegrass decaying in the field means reducing or eliminating the nitrogen boost in June.

Secondly, as the annual ryegrass roots decay (after the cover crop is terminated in early spring), the result is more organic matter, which means more carbon sequestered in the soil, plus more food for a health soil biology.

Finally, when the roots decay, it leaves the earth more pliable, easier for rain to infiltrate, and easier for corn roots to follow. Because annual ryegrass roots grow to depths of five feet and more, it allows corn roots to access that same depth, beyond compaction and into more nutrients like P and K.

It’s amazing that cover cropping, despite it’s proven benefits, is still practiced so infrequently. While it’s great to learn that in some states, 10 percent or more of farmers are using cover crops, it’s discouraging that upwards of 90 percent are still relying on older ways: deep ripping of depleted soils and adding more fertilizer than would be needed if cover crops were utilized.

The Myth of Annual Ryegrass as a Cover Crop

They say, “It’s hard to control annual ryegrass”. As myths go, it’s tame. They used to say that “stepping on a crack would break your grandma’s back.” They used to think that spiders were bad luck.

For 20 years now, farmers in the Midwest have been planting annual ryegrass every year and there hasn’t been one example of it “getting away.” There have even been cases where the management guidelines have been ignored, but a second application of herbicide took care of that mistake.

ARG burndown

Why do myths persist long after their cautionary value has been used up? Maybe two reasons. First, it takes a long time to turn customs around. Humans have a suspicious streak that dates back to when Saber Toothed Tigers were stalking us for food.

As far as annual ryegrass is concerned, you can believe your neighbor or the old fashioned academic…or you can try it yourself and find out that with modern science, you can dispel this old myth. Annual ryegrass is not hard to control. Click here for more info.  2016 ARG as a Cover Crop – 4 page.

Despite all the success of cover crops, despite endless good media and countless field days, the penetration of cover crops is still less than 10 percent of Midwest farm acreage. Why? Because, as hard as a myth is to dispel, it’s even harder to change  habits. And when it comes to tilling the soil, it’s a habit born of generational work in the field and the efforts of corporate chemical companies to continue selling fertilizer.

Annual Ryegrass as a Forage Crop

The Alberta (Canada) Agriculture and Forestry department encourages livestock producers to plant annual ryegrass as a forage crop. Here’s a link to the entire article. ARG Chris B 45 days 10-15 to 12-30-2005

In essence, they say that ryegrass and other annual crops provide flexible feed sources for livestock. Ryegrass has the advantage of being a quick crop to grow to extend grazing in the fall and/or spring.  It can be used as emergency forage if alfalfa is killed during the winter. It establishes quickly and produces a lot of forage in a short amount of time.Of course, excess can also be stockpiled as feed.

When managed intensively, ryegrass can be very productive, the article says. It goes on to say: The fact that the crop has little or no dormancy makes it an ideal fall pasture as it continues to grow and maintain its quality well into the fall, making them useful in extending the grazing season.

In areas with very cold winters, annual ryegrass will often be eliminated by winter weather. But if it does winter over, it grows back quickly in the spring for continued use by livestock. But if the crop will be replaced by corn, for example, eliminating the annual ryegrass is imperative. Click here to review the proper management of annual ryegrass in the spring.

 

Annual Ryegrass, a Question of Dormancy Answered

Annual ryegrass seed, as with most other seeds, has a protective device that maximizes its chances for successful germination. But it’s important to know about it, so that you can successfully grow the cover crop and be prepared to deal with any dormancy issues that arise.

Most ryegrass seed, used for cover cropping,is spread in the fall, after corn and soybean harvest. Sometimes, the weather or soil conditions are not ideal for seed germination. So, in some cases, the seed will lie dormant until better growing conditions exist.

But the idea of cover cropping is that you have fields covered year round, so as to prevent water and nutrient runoff. Thus, having your cover crop germinate in the fall is important.

Newer varieties of annual ryegrass have been developed for colder climates in the Midwest. And yet, getting the ryegrass to germinate and establish can be challenging, especially in late harvest years with sparse rainfall.

Those in more northern latitudes of the Corn Belt are now going to interseeding (seeding the cover crop into standing corn in the spring, when corn is not yet knee-high – v 5 or so.) That can be done with high clearance equipment or by plane. This method avoids the perils of late fall seeding, though it does continue to require good seed-to-soil contact and moisture for germinating.

Oregon State University, a trusted research institution for grass seed science, has published a short paper about dormancy. It’s available on our website near the top of the list of Research links, and if you CLICK HERE  you will find it easy to read and perhaps helpful.

The Right Chemistry for Annual Ryegrass Termination

As mentioned in the last blog post, terminating annual ryegrass is a crucial step in the management of this cover crop. Here are some tips for making sure it’s done properly the first time:

1. Wait until the ryegrass has fully broken dormancy from the winter.

2. Apply in the daytime, when the temps are consistently above 55 degrees during the day. Best results occur when the soil temps are above 45 degrees. Apply during the day so as to give the plant a minimum of 4 hours of daylight – preferably in sunny weather…NOT with rain predicted – to absorb the herbicide (glyphosate).

3. Don’t scrimp on chemistry – apply glyphosate at 1.25-1.50 lb a.e./a with ammonium sulfate and surfactant before the end of April. Coming back again is both costly and risky…annual ryegrass can build a tolerance to glyphosate and you don’t want to tempt fate. Get it done right the first time.

Follow label directions carefully with respect to pH and mixing order. It is important when adding ammonium sulfate, buffering agents or water conditioners that they be added to the full spray tank of water and agitated for 3-5 minutes before adding the glyphosate. This is to ensure that the calcium, magnesium, iron and other dissolved minerals in the water do not interfere with the glyphosate activity.

5. Early termination of the cover crop makes control easier and reduces the amount of residue into which you’ll plant corn or soybeans. Early control also facilitates soil dry-down, allows for significant decomposition of annual ryegrass residue and release of nutrients for uptake by the corn or soybean crop.

6. Some growers have found it easier to plant into the annual ryegrass first and then apply a burndown. Warmer weather conditions improve glyphosate activity and planting into green vegetation has been successful, and is often easier than planting into a “half-dead” cover crop.