(Commonly described as: Lolium multiflorum, recently described as: Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot)
Annual Ryegrass has an excellent rooting system that is capable of reaching depths up to 6 feet. The massive root structure makes it the ideal cover crop when wishing to increase soil structure and promote water infiltration and also drainage. The aggressive roots break through the different layers and compaction layers of the soil, making it easier for the roots from the cash crop to locate the water in the drier months of the growing season. The deep roots are also accredited for bringing nutrients that have leached through the soil, back up to the cash crop root zone in order to better utilize those nutrients. Since 60% of our organic matter comes from the roots, annual ryegrass also is very good at increasing soil organic matter content. It is also an excellent choice for helping minimizing erosion.
Annual ryegrass also has excellent forage and grazing values. When managed properly it can extend the grazing period late into the fall and early into the spring before the heat starts to appear in June.
This is rapidly becoming the cover crop of choice for producers throughout the Midwest. As the name implies, this is a ryegrass that only lives for one year. Annual ryegrass is easily established and can be seeded by either: drilling, broadcast and lightly incorporated, or aerial seeded in standing crops. This plant will provide increased: organic matter, soil structure, water infiltration, erosion control, soybean cysts control, and significantly higher crop yields during stress years.
Some times people confuse annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) with cereal rye (Secale cereale). Just by looking at their names you can see the difference. How they grow and can be utilized as a cover crop is also different. Briefly, annual ryegrass as a finer and more extensive root system than cereal rye. Cereal rye has more above ground (or top growth) than annual ryegrass. For more detailed information on the benefits and management of annual ryegrass, see the various publications listed.