McCardle Bros.
Rooted in Quality since 1980

Grass > How To Grow

GRASS SEED PRODUCTION

There are new opportunities in grass seed production affected by world wide events. In the past twenty years, McCardle Bros. have learned a lot about the production of grass seed and more importantly a lot more about the marketing of ryegrass seed. Having delivered a top quality product to the marketplace for many years, buyers and brokers have established confidence in our products.

      What is particularly attractive to those considering on trying this crop, is the low impact costs of getting into it. Perennial ryegrass is best established by underseeding to a cereal crop. A conventional drill with a grass seed box is all that is needed to plant the crop. Any conventional fertilizer spreader and sprayer can add the fertilizer and herbicide.

       The crop must be swathed as it approaches maturity and any disc mower or hay bind can do the job. When using a hay bind the roller must be opened to allow the crop to pass without being rolled.

      When the crop is dried and ready for harvest, any conventional combine can thrash the crop. All that is needed is a relatively inexpensive pick up head for the combine.

       Ryegrass is an excellent rotational crop with potatoes and can produce an important source of income.

     Clean land is the secret to successfully producing good grass seed crops and potato rotation are an excellent way to keep land clean. Couch grass is probably the most common primary noxious weed that P.E.I. farmers will have to deal with. Canadian Grade Standards require zero tolerance for couch grass in Certified #1 or Canada #1 seed.  Ryegrass contamination with couch is still a saleable product but at a lesser value than clean seed.

     Serious weed contamination is a major barrier to producing a profitable grass seed crop. Steps must be taken to prevent contamination by primary noxious weeds, such as, couch grass and ox-eye daisy. Bale busting hay and spreading manure are two practices that make grass seed production very difficult. These practices contaminate not only with serious weeds but with other crop kinds such as timothy and clover.

      Great care must be taken to rid couch from fence lines and headlands. The arrival of the two potato herbicides, Venture and Prism, have made this much easier. Spot spraying of fence lines and headlands can easily be done in the potato year.

      Green hollows are a serious source of couch contamination. However, the herbicide Venture, has greatly reduced this problem. Creeping red fescue is an excellent grass for green hollows and creeping red fescue is not affected by the herbicide Venture. So if you seed the hollows with creeping red fescue, then couch grass can be controlled by spot spraying the green hollow with Venture. By offering production contracts for perennial grass seed production, we are hoping the farmers can realize approximately $175/acre with proven production levels of 400-500 lbs./acre and a contract price of approximately $0.35/lb.

Yields, like all crops fluctuate and the ryegrass industry is cyclical. Yields can reach 800-900 lbs. and prices can rise but the above figures represent a realistic average.

       Perennial ryegrass crops are best established by under seeding the grass crop to a cereal crop using 10-12 lbs. of seed/acre.

     It should be noted that severe winter weather may cause winter kill. Thereby requiring re-seeding of the crop. 

The production profile we are using on our farm is profiled below.

  1. Under seeding 10 lbs. of perennial ryegrass seed with cereal crop in May.
  2. Remove straw immediately after grain harvest.
  3. Application of Buctril M herbicide as soon as possible after straw removal.
  4. Application of 50 lbs. Of ammonium nitrate to promote fall tillering.
  5. In spring of seed year, apply 70 units of nitrogen as soon as the fields are firm enough for farm equipment.
  6. Another application of herbicide, if required, usually mid-May.
  7. Swathing - July 28th - August 5th using disk mower or haybine 
  8. Thrashing - August 5th - August 15th

     It is worth noting that there are several grasses we use that can be left out for several years. Examples of these are Creeping Red Fescue and Tall Fescue. Once established, these crops can produce profitable seed crops for several years. For anyone with land they would like to rest from potato rotation, this is an alternative option.



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