By Joy Beam
As an annual that behaves like a biennial, Green Spirit, KF Allegro and other Italian ryegrasses can be placed strategically on livestock operations to capitalize on both yield and quality. They are ideal as silage or green chop for high producing dairy cows and produce impressive forage yields of exceptional high-quality feed. Yields are often seen at 8-10 tons of DM per acre with NDFd’s of 72% to 77%. Use Table 1 for a variety comparison between Green Spirit, KF Allegro, and annual ryegrass varieties. The forage value of Italian Rye Grasses is higher than that of corn silage and can create great economic advantages for producers. It can fill in as a great replacement for annual ryegrass or triticale.
Italian Ryegrasses require vernalization, the exposure to a prolonged cold winter, in order to mature. Whether these grasses express annual or biannual traits depends both on what season it is planted and what climate it is planted into, and should be managed accordingly.
Planted Fall: Italian ryegrasses act as an annual. Compared to annual ryegrass, Italian ryegrasses will yield less on the first cut but will yield more than annuals on the second cut. Producers can gain back the added input costs on the exceptionally high feeding value of Italian ryegrasses.
Planted Spring: Italian ryegrasses act as a biannual and will produce few, if any seed heads that year. They will stay in the vegetative state and maintain quality throughout the growing season with an additional fall cutting.