Evaluating Italian Ryegrass for Summer Pasture in New England

Final Report for FNE01-364

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2001: $940.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $1,060.00
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
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Project Information


Dry summer periods affect grazing, and hay is expensive. The farmer will no-till Italian ryegrass, which grows under hot and dry conditions, and compare the results of different planting densities. Number of grazing days for each plot and animal preferences will also be recorded.

Project Objectives:

1. To see if Italian Ryegrass can be established without the use of herbicides by no-tilling in the early spring into existing high quality sod.

2. To see if Italian Ryegrass once established will provide supplemental summer grazing under New England growing conditions.


Materials and methods:

On April 30, we no-tilled certified Italian ryegrass seed into pastures on the Gowdy and Quarrier farms. On May 1, we no-tilled Italian ryegrass into pastures on the Clement and Batchelder farms. On May 11, we no-tilled Italian ryegrass into pastures on the Kennard and Weaver farms. An area slightly less than one acre was marked off and seeded on each farm. Half the area was seeded at a rate of 15 lbs per acre, the remainder at 30 lbs per acre. The same Aitchison no-till seeder pulled by the same tractor with the same operator was used at all six locations.

Research results and discussion:

Weather conditions couldn't have been much worse than what we had this spring and summer. After record snowfall that stayed on the ground until late April, we had a sudden warm spell with rapid snow melt followed by almost no rain for the month of May. The no-till seeder, bought new this spring by one of the participating farms, came with no coulters, so much of the seed did not make good contact with the soil. These factors resulted in poor germination; the few plants that did grow were eaten by an infestation of armyworms that hit all six of the project farms in early July. Lastly, the entire area has had almost no rain since early July.

Because of the factors listed above, we don't feel the ryegrass got a fair evaluation. The farm that owns the no-till seeder will be getting coulters for next season, and most of the farms are interested in trying it again next year.

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.