Annual ryegrass is a tool for improving soil health and increasing crop yield. In fact, annual ryegrass is like the durable Leatherman tool – just one application to fix a lot of problems.
- Annual ryegrass puts an end to erosion and the loss of precious topsoil through your tile system and into the nearby waterways. In doing so, you are improving water quality and air quality at the same time.
- The cover crop has deep roots that break up compaction, accessing nutrients and moisture in deeper soil. During dry years, this helps keep corn from shriveling up in the heat, creating drought resistant plants.
- Using annual ryegrass also boosts organic matter by providing lots of decaying roots in a more friable soil. More food for the critters that inhabit healthy soil.
- Among other attributes, annual ryegrass also sequesters nitrogen available in the soil, helping conserve it for use when the corn needs it in the spring, after the ryegrass has been terminated. This saves you money on the amount of nitrogen you need to add during the year.
But like every tool purchase, the buyer must beware. Just as there are Leatherman copies that are cheaply made and don’t last long, annual ryegrass also comes in varieties that are better designed for the tough work of Midwest cover cropping systems.
Take a look at the list of growers and suppliers at this link. Do some research and, if you have questions, call those who grow and sell annual ryegrass seed. Many of them have invested countless hours and considerable resources in developing varieties of annual ryegrass that are hardy over the winter. That helps to keep something growing year round and prevents wind and water erosion.