Ryegrass is a fast growing, cool season grass that prefers cool, moist climates with moderate temperature variations. Used as a pasture and turf grass, ryegrass varieties are highly sought after for their quick germination, fast growth rates and highly productive crop yields. Different varieties of ryegrass are better adapted to specific climates and are used in different regions of the United States.
Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), also known as Italian ryegrass, is used as a pasture and turf grass throughout the southeastern United States. Native to southern Europe, annual ryegrass is the greatest yielding and fastest growing pasture grass but lacks the cold tolerance of other varieties. When used as a forage or pasture grass in the south, annual ryegrass is typically planted in the fall and harvested throughout the winter.
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is used as a pasture and turf grass in temperate climates throughout the United States. With more cold tolerance than annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass produces a quality, disease-resistant forage grass for cattle and sheep. When used in home lawns, perennial ryegrass requires bi-weekly mowing to keep the aggressive growth in check.
Short Rotation Ryegrass
According to the University of Wisconsin, short rotation ryegrass (Lolium hybridum) is a hybrid species derived from a cross between annual and perennial ryegrass varieties. Less cold tolerant but better yielding than perennial ryegrass, short rotation ryegrass is used as a pasture grass in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Festuloliums ryegrass (Festulolium braunii) is a hybrid variety that is created by a cross between either perennial or annual ryegrass and fescue grass. This cross results in a hardy, disease-resistant, easy-to-establish ryegrass that is used exclusively as a forage grass for beef cattle in the Midwestern United States.