EverGraze Action – Productive, persistent perennial ryegrass
Perennial ryegrass is valued in southern Australia for its high growth and quality feed in winter and spring.
It is readily established across different production environments however it does not persist as well as deeper-rooted phalaris or cocksfoot under moisture stress.
Perennial ryegrass has three mechanisms to survive over summer:
- tillers that remain vegetative all through summer
- tillers that flower and produce buds that survive after the main tiller dies
- seeds produced in summer that germinate and grow into new plants after the autumn break.
Understanding these survival mechanisms is useful to tailor management strategies to improve the persistence and productivity of perennial ryegrass.
Allow ryegrass to flower
Perennial ryegrass survival from season to season (persistence) can be enhanced by allowing the plant to flower. Twenty-five times more new tillers are produced from tillers that have flowered compared with tillers that remain vegetative over summer and autumn. Also, new tillers produced from tillers that have flowered survive longer than those produced at any other time of year.
Allow ryegrass to set seed
The density of a perennial ryegrass stand can be increased by allowing ryegrass seed heads to mature over summer and drop seeds, which will germinate after autumn rains. Allowing ryegrass to develop seed heads provides dry standing feed for livestock over summer–autumn.
The persistence and productivity of perennial ryegrass can be optimised with an integrated approach to soil management, cultivar and endophyte selection, and grazing and pasture management.