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At the annual SFSDC Forage Seed Information Session on January 11, 2018, Dr. Dave Grafstrom, University of Minnesota, began the session with an excellent presentation entitled, “Perennial Ryegrass Yields 2,000 lbs/acre by 2020: Reality or Pipedream!” Dave is from Roseau, Minnesota, about a 2 hour drive south of Winnipeg. He is a board member of the Minnesota Turf Seed Council and writes a weekly newsletter for their website (www.mnturfseed.org/index.html) during the growing season to update growers on current crop conditions, crop management, pest outbreaks and other issues.   

Much of Dr. Grafstrom’s research work involves a number of perennial forages done at their research farm near Roseau. His discussion centred on general crop economics, ryegrass economics, theoretical perennial ryegrass seed yields, management strategies for high ryegrass yields, fertility, growth regulators, and diseases.

Terry Kowalchuk Dave Grafstrom Jan 11, 2018
Terry Kowalchuk and Dave Grafstrom at SFSDC Grower Information Session in Saskatoon, SK January 11, 2018. Source: SFSDC

Current perennial ryegrass seed yields in northern Minnesota average 800 lbs/acre, but much higher yields are attained by the top growers. With 2018 input costs estimated at $381/acre and gross returns at $480/acre, there is a good profit to be made, but if yields were increased to say 1,200 lbs/acre, profit levels would be much better. So, yields drive profit.

Dr. Grafstrom recommended that to attain these higher yields, growers need to: utilize technology (GPS, auto steer, GIS mapping, satellite); engage their entire management team; do regular crop scouting; understand grass seed plant growth and development, growing degree day models and pest patterns; and control the controllables.

Controllables are: crop/variety selection; timings of crop inputs; nitrogen rate and timing; regular budget review; pay close attention to details; utilize all management resources; when to swath; and when to buy inputs.

Uncontrollables are: weather; commodity prices; input prices; government programs and policies; interest rates; global economy; and agriculture policy.

In Minnesota, top growers are using growing degree day models to predict ryegrass growth, stages and pest outbreaks. This can determine herbicide timings, growth regulator schedules, fertilizer timings (fall, spring or split applications), and monitoring for pests (mildew, rust, grasshoppers).

Dr. Grafstrom went on to describe factors that affect perennial ryegrass yield: stand losses due to winterkill and not spreading heavy straw from previous crop; time of seeding (spring or fall); fertility; full straw load and controling lodging; no rust control; weed control (including roguing areas with Group 1 resistant weeds); reducing cleaning losses; and harvest and storage.

Posted February 6, 2018