Italian ryes impressive, says Trust
HYBRID varieties of Italian ryegrass cut for conservation may out-perform maize and whole-crop silage, according to the latest report from the Kingshay Farming Trust.
Author Charlotte Carter says that the annual average production of seven Italian ryegrass varieties trialled exceeded 15t DM/ha (6t DM/acre) over two years. "Maize and whole-crop silage generally yield about 5t DM/acre, but are one-year crops."
Results of two- and three-cut regimes varied more than expected, says Kingshay chairman Martin Hutchinson. "Over the two-year trial, average yield from the two-cut system was 4.8t DM/ha, while yields from the three-cut regime averaged 5.8t DM/acre. Aftermath grazing also added to yields."
Average yields of some of the varieties also increased in the second and third year after sowing, he says.
Varieties were selected as ones which were likely to perform well over three years, were also winter hardy and fairly drought tolerant. These were Bartissimo, Barverdi, Danergo, Molisto, Polly and Solid, with Atalja as a control.
"Our results show that the new hybrid Italian ryegrasses are comparable with other alternative forages such as maize and whole-crop silage."
Cost of Italian ryegrass silage – based on two-cut system, or where there is at least 2.5t DM/ha (1t DM/acre) available for third cut – was £70/t DM. This is identical to maize and whole-crop, but with the added benefit of higher protein content, he says.
"Italian ryegrass silage has an average 13% protein content, while maize and whole-crop silage contain less than 10% protein.
He acknowledges that availability of area aid payments may make maize and whole-crop silage cheaper. "But these new hybrid varieties make Italian ryegrass well worth considering," says Mr Hutchinson.