In Texas, Lloyd Nelson, AgriLife Research small grains breeder, says producers lose money when they try to save on ryegrass varieties and fertilizer.
Nelson has developed several high-yielding ryegrass varieties, including TAM 90, TAMTBO and most recently, "Nelson." The latter has higher yield potential than other high-yielding varieties such as TAM 80, Prine and Jumbo.
Yet, Nelson says the most commonly planted ryegrass for winter pasture is the Gulf variety.
"Gulf costs about 34-36¢/lb., while newer varieties like Nelson, Prine and TAMTBO are about 45-48¢/lb.," Nelson says.
So, at the recommended planting rates of 20-25 lbs./acre, he explains farmers save about $3/acre in seed costs.
"But, for that $3 savings, they will typically give up about 2,000 lbs./acre of high-quality forage," Nelson says. That 2,000 lbs. is the equivalent of at least two large round bales of hay per acre, which typically would sell for $40 or more each, according to Nelson.
There's still plenty of time to plant ryegrass for winter pasture in Texas; the planting window is from mid-October through the first week of December. However, as with all ryegrasses, Nelson explains ryegrass needs adequate soil moisture to emerge. Ryegrass is typically overseeded over existing, dormant warm-season grass pastures after a light disking.
Likewise, Nelson emphasizes all ryegrasses need to be fertilized to soil tests. Usually this means 100-150 lbs. of actual nitrogen during the season.
Because of high nitrogen costs, farmers may try to grow ryegrass for winter pastures at a reduced nitrogen rate or not fertilize at all. This is another bad business decision, Nelson says.
"If they're not going to fertilize, I wouldn't recommend them planting any ryegrass. Just buy the hay," Nelson says.
Incidentally, the “Nelson” variety has averaged about 7,000 lbs./acre of forage in heavy gumbo soil tests near College Station and Beaumont.
Nelson ryegrass' three-year average yields in East Texas at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton where the soils are sandy loams topped 9,500 lbs. Gulf produced 8,300 lbs. at the Overton site, while Prine and Passerel Plus ryegrasses produced 9,270 lbs. and 9,160 lbs., respectively.