Ryegrass can be direct drilled into the ground with reasonable success. For increased establishment rates a cultivated seed bed, free of large clods or trash is ideal.
Yield potential of the ryegrass sward is strongly correlated with the level of fertility in the soil. It is recommended that before sowing a new pasture, a soil test is taken to determine any deficiencies or restraints such deficient phosphorus or low pH (acidic). Soil pH between 4.8 and 7.5 will ensure the sward can achieve its potential yield. Once the soil fertility is known, any deficiencies can be rectified before sowing commences.
Reducing weeds in the seed bed reduces competition with the newly sown ryegrass. Preventing weeds setting seed is key to reducing this burden in the future. A knock-down herbicide can be used prior to sowing. If direct drilling into an already existing pasture the use of a ‘winter cleaning’ herbicide during winter will reduce the weed burden at sowing the following autumn.
At sowing, it is important to apply a sowing fertiliser such as MAP or DAP, which contains both phosphorus (essential for root development) and nitrogen (essential for leaf growth). Sowing fertiliser provides the pasture with sufficient nutrition to establish successfully.
Insects and slugs can cause significant damage to newly sown pastures. It is essential to monitor for insects prior and immediately after the germination of the pasture. If pests are present in large numbers, it may be necessary to apply an insecticide or slug bait either prior to sowing or after germination has occurred.
Ryegrass is a moderately small seed and therefore should not be sown too deep as this will hinder emergence of the shoot. Ideally, a depth of between 10-15mm is suitable, especially when being sown with clover.
Before grazing use the ‘pull test’ whereby you attempt to pull the plant up, if it pulls from the soil easily it is best to wait until it is well anchored before allowing livestock to graze. Ryegrass is suited to rotational grazing, allow tillers to reach the 2.5-3 leaf stage before grazing then allow plants to recover to this stage again before subsequent grazing’s.
Ryegrass can be very lush feed and highly digestible, caution should be taken when introducing hungry livestock or changing livestock diets rapidly. Ensure roughage is provided until livestock have adjusted to the ryegrass or allow the ryegrass to grow more thus producing more fibre.