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Differences in Annual & Perennial Ryegrass

Rye Grass Planting Map

Perennial rye grass handles differences between cold and warm temperatures better than Annual Ryegrass, though neither variety likes extreme temperature changes. Both ryegrass varieties are also referred to as winter ryegrass.

This map to the right shows the areas of permanent adaptation for perennial ryegrass.

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Both annual ryegrass and perennial ryegrass are used in the South (transition zone, southward) to overseed warm season grasses such as Zoysia, Bahia and Bermudagrass lawns during the winter months when these grasses go dormant and turn brown. These ryegrasses are also called winter ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass can extend growing into the warm season longer than annual ryegrass and is less susceptible to dying out under warm temperatures. It's positive attribute is that it handles lower cold temps and warmer temps than does the annual variety. Perennial ryegrass is used in more Northern states as a single stand lawn and also in mixtures. There is a limit to it's cold tolerance and it can be winter killed or damaged in more extreme cold climates.

Perennial Ryegrass Adaptation

Perennial Ryegrass Lawns are adapted to the cool season zones when grown in single stands for full coverage. It prefers sun but can tolerate moderate shade. This ryegrass can be used in overseeding warm season grasses in the temperate zone during the winter while they are in dormancy or for greenery in the winter while the warm season grass is getting fully established in the spring. Best established in temperate zones with plenty of rainfall and in the warmer climates with cooler nights. Perennial will not do well in extreme heat, cold or dry situations.

Perennial ryegrass is also suited for use as a permanent lawn, pasture, or for other turf uses in the northern USA.  This ryegrass is also found in many cool season grass mixtures.

Perennial ryegrass in many situations does not always remain a long-life grass, many times dying out in 1 to 3 years depending on the location and temperatures. Some varieties act more like annual ryegrass, depending on how far south they are grown.

Perennial Ryegrass Forages can be found all over the world north of the tropical areas into the transition zone and into the regions of the cold season zone. Perennial ryegrass can be grown on a variety of soils and climates as long as there is sufficient rainfall or irrigation. Ryegrass is one of the most palatable forages and produces plenty of forage material when handled correctly. The varieties seem endless and are still being added to almost yearly. The Europeans and developers in New Zealand are really working with some impressive strains for better forage usage and extending the area of adaptation into the colder climates.

Annual Ryegrass Adaptation

ANNUAL RYEGRASS is rarely grown for lawns in single stands. Instead this grass is used to seed with other grasses being established and for overseeding of warm season grasses. Annual ryegrass performs well in so many situations while the permanent grass is filling in or in dormancy. This grass is easily grown from seed and in all kinds of soils and climates except the very hot and very cold. The best adaptation for annual ryegrass is in regions of adequate rainfall or irrigation and damper soils.

Annual ryegrass is an environmentally friendly grass as it controls  nematodes when used in rotation eliminating the need for heavy chemicals. Annual ryegrass is easily removed from any area through heavy grazing, mowing or turning under before the seeding stage. Eco-friendly because it is a non-aggressive, vigorous grower, furnishing nutrients back to the soil, forms an erosion soil basis for stability, highly digestible for grazing, has beautiful color, dies off when you need it to without chemicals.

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