Seeding Rate for Annual Ryegrass Cover Crop Varies

In past years, we’ve published pretty standardized rates for seeding annual ryegrass into corn and soybeans. The rates vary from about 12 llb/ac (drilling) to 25 lb/ac if broadcast or aerial seeding. Click here to go to our four-page management guide or here for our handy Quick guide.

Now, even among experts, there’s some thought to lowering the recommended seeding rate, in order to save money but also to make it easier to manage the ryegrass in the field.

Mike Plumer has seen instances where annual ryegrass was too heavy, creating difficulty drilling into it after burndown. The root mat of annual ryegrass, if too dense, can complicate the closing of the seed trench. Further, he says that annual ryegrass roots seem to go deeper if the stand is thinner, because the plants don’t have as much competition with each other. He’s seen effective stands at as low as 8 lb/ac and thinks the 25 lb/ac is too heavy.

Dan Towery is more cautious about cutting back on the recommended seeding rate. While he agreed with Mike that certain growing conditions would warrant less seed/ac, he doesn’t want to end up with stands that are too thin. He said that the 2012/2013 cover crop season was unusual in that annual ryegrass did super well. The reasons: lots of residual N in the field from last year’s drought, September rain that got the ryegrass established well and a long spring that prolonged the cover crop season.

The consensus decision, after more discussion, will manifest in a modification of language in our brochures. Stay tuned…but it looks like growers will be advised to use best practices for your area and the climate conditions. That means asking the experts, whether at your seed supplier, your Extention agronomist….or your neighbor who’s been growing successful cover crops and can guide you on the local recommendations.

And then again, you can always contact us…we’ll put you in touch with Mike or Dan – or any number of other successful cover crop growers in your area – and you can hear it directly from them..

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