8 Keys to Help No-Tillers Manage Annual Ryegrass

No-tillers just starting to use annual ryegrass should follow a few simple rules to take advantage of this cover crop’s compaction-busting, nitrogen-scavenging benefits.

With its prolific root system and economical price tag, annual ryegrass is one of the most popular cover crops no-tillers have at their disposal. It’s also gotten a bad rap for being tough to manage, says Dan Towery.

But if no-tillers stick with a few rules of thumb when it comes to seeding and termination, they’ll have far more success with annual ryegrass, says the consultant for Ag Conservation Solutions. Towery shared several keys to success during the recent National No-Tillage Conference.

1. Read the Tag

No-tillers should avoid bags of annual ryegrass that say “VNS” as that stands for “Variety Not Stated,” Towery says. This means multiple species or varieties of annual ryegrass may have been blended together and may break dormancy as much as 2 weeks apart.

Le Roy, N.Y., no-tiller Donn Branton says this happened on his farm. After applying 2,4-D and glyphosate to annual ryegrass as a burndown in the spring and planting corn, the ryegrass greened up again 2 weeks later.

He found that some of the product was Italian ryegrass and the plants probably weren’t all at the same growth stage during termination. Branton says it took 3 years to get the ryegrass problem cleaned up in some of his fields.

“Your cover-crop dealer needs to know the particulars of the variety they’re selling and when it starts to grow,” Towery says. “And do not seed a blend.”

2. Plant on Time

Towery says he hears too many growers say they’ll plant annual ryegrass…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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