Type: cool season annual grass
Roles: prevent erosion, improve soil structure and drainage, add organic matter, suppress weeds, scavenge nutrients
Mix With: legumes, grasses
Erosion Fighter: Ryegrass has an extensive, soil-holding root system. The cover crop establishes quickly even in poor, rocky or wet soils and tolerates some flooding once established.
Soil builder: Ryegrass’s dense, yet shallow root system improves water filtration and enhances soil tilth. Rapid above ground growth helps supply organic matter. Expect about 4,000 – 8,000 lb. dry matter on average with a multicut regimen, climbing as high as 9,000 lb. dry matter average over a full field season with high moisture and fertility.
Weed Suppressor: Mixed with legumes or grasses, annual ryegrass usually establishes first and improves early-season weed control.
Nutrient catch crop: A high N user, ryegrass can capture leftover N and reduce nitrate leaching over winter.
Provided it survives the winter, its extensive, fibrous root system can take up as much as 43 lb. N average, a University of California study showed. It took up about 60 lb. N average by mid-May following corn in a Maryland study. Cereal rye scavenged the same amount of N by mid-April on silt loam soil. Ryegrass works well ahead of no-till corn or soybeans in the Corn Belt, sometimes winterkilling, or spray it for weed-controlling mulch.