Tag Archives: management of annual ryegrass

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.

Annual Ryegrass Burndown this Spring

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin’s quip is just as sound today as it was when uttered 250 years ago.

RoundUp logoThe reason annual ryegrass has NOT become a problem in the Midwest, despite heavy use in the past 20 years as a cover crop, is because those using it have been careful in its use…or have been able to recover from their mistakes without too much extra trouble or expense.

So, what can go wrong?

  • You let it grow too long in the spring before killing it with an effective “burndown” with glyphosate or other herbicide. Ideally, spray the crop before it gets to the “joint” stag (6 inches or so in top growth)
  • You try to spray the crop before all the grass is in active growth mode.  It’s important to wait until it has fully broken dormancy, perhaps a week after you notice the first growth, and after the daytime temperatures reach 55 – 60 degrees, and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 40 degrees.
  • You’ve used a cover crop mix and thus the dates to spray become variable because each plant (annual ryegrass, cereal rye, vetch, clover) recover from dormancy at different times.
  • You spray once but don’t kill it all off with one application. At that point, it pays to be vigilant. Letting a cover crop recover from one application of herbicide can give it tolerance to a second application. Thus, it’s very important to pay attention to the second application, in terms of products to use, timing of the application and assuring that the second burndown is effective.

For more details, contact neighbors or a trusted agronomist. And by all means, check out this free information about controlling annual ryegarss, from our website.2016 ARG as a Cover Crop – 4 page

More Buzz about the Value of Cover Crops

“The good news is, soil will improve every year you grow a cover crop,” said Dan Towery, a crop consultant, and owner of Ag Conservation Solutions, living in West Lafayette, Ind.. “How soon you see measurable yield improvement depends on field history and what limiting factors, such as weather, are present in a year. For example, soils that are low in organic matter will benefit faster from cover crops.”

His comments are part of a longer article in the Farm Journal online. Click here to view the whole article.

Carbon sequestration graphicKen Ferrie is also interviewed for the article. Ferrie, Farm Journal’s Field Agronomist said “It might take many years to make big changes in soil health, but in some situations, you might see improvement (earlier than that.). For example, he cited a study in which annual ryegrass as a cover crop improved carbon content, bulk density and water infiltration IN THE FIRST YEAR!.

“As with any new practice, you’ll be eager to determine whether cover crops are having an impact,” Ferrie says. “Your soil physical provides a benchmark so you can follow up later and see if soil health is improving.”

Another farmer and rancher, Gabe Brown, talked about the benefits of cover crops in North Dakota. “You should use covers to address your resource concerns,” advises Brown. For the past two decades, he’s used cover crops to increase diversity, build organic matter, and improve water infiltration and the water-holding capacity of his soils.

“We look at each field separately and determine what the resource concern of each field is,” he says.

But make sure you choose a cover crop with a lot of forethought and advice from others with experience. Otherwise, you may be inviting failure or added problems. “Cover crops take more management, not less,” said Mike Plumer, who died last Christmas after dedicating 50 years to soil health and farmer education. “Farmers have to learn how cover crops react on their own fields.”

Plumer advised producers to start small with cover crops – perhaps a 20 acre plot or so, before “before incorporating on the entire farm.”

Trick or Treat – Annual Ryegrass as a Cover Crop Delivers Both

Growing a cover crop like annual ryegrass has immense benefits, as you have no doubt learned. Thus the “treat” this Halloween is in the form of tangible revenue that growers receive from annual planting of cover crops:

  • Improved soil conditions – without tillage, soil health continues to grow. With cover crops, that growth is accellerated
  • Fewer inputs – less tillage, fewer passes over the soil, less compaction and fewer dollars spent on fertilizers, like nitrogen
  • Deeper soil profile, opened up by the deep, penetrating roots of annual ryegrass, allows better access to moisture in dry years and migration of deeper layers of nutrients
  • More profit – when the soil is happy, crops are happier, and production increases.

Halloween photo

The “trick” of annual ryegrass, as with any cover crop, is learning the details of new management techniques. The seeding of cover crops and the management of annual ryegrass in particular, in the spring, are very important. If managed poorly, annual ryegrass can become a pest, a weed. But as you learn the tricks, management becomes almost second nature.

For more information about growing and managing annual ryegrass, click here.

Annual Ryegrass and other Cover Crops – New Tips on Termination

Admittedly, this is late for the 2017 burndown season. And yet, it’s important to share while it’s topical…managing cover crops is a “growing” interest and we’ll keep an eye on posting an update early next year.

Mike Plumer is the key driver for this article, published a couple months ago by No-Till Farmer magazine. It was taken largely from a seminar Mike did at the National No-Till Conference in St. Louis, earlier in the year. Check out the whole article. It has great tips about managing burndown when the cover crop includes annual ryegrass in a “cocktail mix”. It also looks at the issue of annual ryegrass varieties, and how important it is to know the source of the seed. Different varieties emerge from winter dormancy, for example, which provides problems when trying to kill it in a timely fashion.

ARG burndown

Finally, Mike’s discussion covers the subject of killing annual ryegrass once it has reached the “joint” stage or beyond, when control with generic glyphosate will not be enough. Click here to see the entire article.

 

Glyphosate and Monsanto Clear The Hurdle

An alternative health blogger known as Food Babe has been going toe to toe with Monsanto for years, trying to get traction with consumers on the dangers of glyphosate…Monsanto’s RoundUp.

She has postulated that glyphosate, even in minute traces per billion, causes cancer. But in a recent rebuttal from Snopes.com (an independent, myth-busting organization made up mainly of scientific journalists), they report that the scare tactics leveled by Food Babe are “FALSE”.

RoundUp logo

The federal EPA agency began looking at glyphosate in 1985, and by 1993 concluded it is carcinogenic. They talked about the herbicide’s ability to become waterborne and thus get into drinking water, as well as foods that live in soil exposed to glyphosate.

Since then, it was shown that studies linking cancer to glyphosate relied on concentrations of the chemical that were way out of proportion with amounts that are used in agricultural applications. Recent tests that show potentially adverse effects at lower exposures are also suspect, as peer review has raised questions about scientific methods and data validity.

In March of 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said that glyphosate “may have some carcinogenic potential” but, the consensus among the world’s regulatory agencies, according to the Snopes.com article, is that glyphosate “is safe for consumption and non-carcinogenic at environmentally relevant levels.”

Consequently, the World Health Organization concluded: “Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

Click here to review the Snopes.com article.

The Chemistry of Burndown of Annual Ryegrass

Glyphosate is the most common herbicide used to control annual ryegrass. It’s very important to use a rate that is adequate. The minimum rate of glyphosate recommended for annual ryegrass is 1.25-1.50 lb a.e./acre with ammonium sulfate and surfactant in late March to early April. Use 1.75 lb a.e./acre if needed.

Glyphosate products vary in concentration and this affects application rate. Here are two application examples to provide the necessary 1.25-1.50 lb/acre a.e.:

  • A 41% glyphosate product containing 3 lbs/gal of a.e. (acid equivalent). Application rate should be 53-64 oz/acre
  • Roundup PowerMax is a 48.7% glyphosate product with 4.5 lb/gal of a.e. Application rate should be 36-43 oz/acre

While one burndown application should provide control of the annual ryegrass, growers should plan for two applications, especially if the initial spray conditions were cool

  • Consider using an herbicide with a different mode of action if re-spraying is needed (Research is currently testing alternatives to glyphosate and tank mixes with glyphosate to reduce the dependence on this important herbicide)

Even when annual ryegrass is small it requires full rates of herbicides to achieve control. Low rates will often stress the plant making it more difficult to control at a later date

  • In years with marginal weather conditions, or where the ryegrass is in the jointing stage, use a higher rate of glyphosate (1.75 lb a.e./acre) to help insure complete control. Using a full label rate once is preferred to split applications of a lower rate.

 

Killing Annual Ryegrass Cover Crops Adds to Soil Organic Matter

Cereal rye is a great cover crop. Sometimes, however, the amount of biomass in the spring creates difficulty for drilling corn seed. The excess vegetation can impede proper planting and can also take moisture out of the soil that crops will need this summer.

Annual ryegrass doesn’t create as much biomass,The residual left by the annual ryegrass after burndown quickly decomposes into the no-till soil. It becomes food for soil critters and microorganisms. And the massive root network slowly decomposes too, building organic matter. The channels created by ryegrass roots become channels for corn roots. The combination of root channels and more organic matter allows better infiltration of rain. but it is important to spray the crop out in a timely fashion.

Corn roots in ARG 6-06 Starkey
Annual ryegrass, if let grow too long, can be more difficult to kill. And letting it go to seed is asking for trouble…nobody wants to contend with a cover crop that gets away.

Last week’s blog discusses the proper guidelines for applying herbicide to kill the cover crop. Here’s a linkto the management guide where those instructions are.