Farm Progress

Burn down annual ryegrass successfully this spring by implementing a good strategy.

January 16, 2018

2 Min Read
GOOD COVER: Once a cover crop has done its job over fall, winter and spring, it’s time to terminate it. Follow the proper steps to get a successful kill.Kris Vance, NRCS

By Don Donovan

Annual ryegrass is very deep-rooting; it scavenges leftover soil nitrogen and provides erosion control. These attributes make it an excellent cover crop, but it can also provide challenges when it comes time for spring termination. 

That’s why it’s vital that farmers have a well-thought-out termination plan that includes options. Farmers throughout Indiana who use annual ryegrass find they can overcome these challenges with proper management and planning. Several have developed a recipe for successful annual ryegrass termination. 

Follow recipe
The first ingredient in the recipe is a double measure of patience. Weather conditions must be appropriate for terminating ryegrass. Generally, you need at least three consecutive days with temperatures above 50 degrees F and no nights with temperatures below 30 degrees.

A general rule of thumb is to not spray ryegrass until you have mown your lawn a couple of times.  Ryegrass must be actively growing to be terminated successfully; therefore, it the weather must be warm. Farmers have learned that if they load up the sprayer and head out to terminate ryegrass on the first warm day of the spring, they will regret it.

Proper timing is the next ingredient. Annual ryegrass “wakes up” in the morning and “goes to bed” early in the evening. Herbicide must be applied while the plant is actively growing so it will translocate all the way down 40-inch-deep roots. The translocation process can take three hours, so a “10 o’clock to 2 o’clock” spray window has been found to work best for most of Indiana.

Water quality is key
Water is another main ingredient of this recipe. Do you or your retailer check the quality of the spray water used with herbicides? Follow the label, but herbicides used to terminate annual ryegrass are typically more effective at lower pH levels. 

Check with your local retailer about products to lower the pH of spray water to levels recommended on the product label. As important as pH is, also consider the hardness of spray water. In many places in Indiana, groundwater has a high hardness level due to the high calcium levels of bedrock where wells are located. 

Get water tested, and use appropriate products to adjust the hardness to levels recommended on the termination product’s label. Adjust the pH and hardness of spray water before adding the herbicide.  Never add the herbicide before adding products to correct the water.

Donovan is a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service based in Parke County, Ind. He writes articles on behalf of the Indiana Conservation Partnership to help educate growers about the specific steps it takes to achieve improved soil health on their farms.

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