How to mitigate cost increases and be climate-smart this spring
The demand for environmental stewardship and the high cost of inputs are two factors influencing reseeding decisions this spring. Choosing the right grass seed mixture is another and the first step to gaining economically and environmentally from your investment.
Grass varieties bred specifically to help livestock production convert into more milk and meat but are also 25-50% more responsive to nitrogen than mature permanent pasture. Our range of Aber High Sugar Grasses (Aber HSG) with options to include Germinal red and white clovers do just that, supporting your need to maximise productivity and environmental gains.
Which grass seed is right for you?
When selecting a specific grass mixture there are two things to consider: does it contain the right species for my grassland? And of those species, are they the best varieties available?
Perennial ryegrass (PRG) is the top choice for medium and long-term, high yielding, high-quality grass leys to support livestock production and is suitable for both grazing and cutting.
Perennial ryegrass lasts longer than Italian ryegrass and forms the basis of Germinal’s Aber HSG range. Aber HSG varieties are among the top-rated for metabolisable energy (ME) yield/ha on the Recommended Grass and Clover List; ME being a key determinant of livestock performance.
Source: 2021/2022 Recommended Grass and Clover List for England and Wales
Research has shown a 20% increase in liveweight gains and 6% more milk per cow. The higher water-soluble carbohydrate (sugar) content offers environmental benefits too. With extra available energy allowing more protein to be used in meat and milk production, ammonia and methane production is reduced.
Benefits: Medium or long term, high yielding, high quality, lower ammonia and methane excretion
Examples: Aber HSG 1, Aber HSG 2, Aber HSG 3, Aber HSG 4, Aber Red 5 HSG
In contrast to long-term perennial ryegrasses, Italian ryegrasses (IRG) are quick out of the ground. They are an option if you’re looking for a short-term grass to fit into a rotation but be prepared to cut frequently to avoid heading and seeding. Quick to establish and responsive to nitrogen, IRG can offer high yields for one to two years and is useful for drilling after other crops later in autumn.
Benefit: High yielding over a short period
A hybrid ryegrass combines the yield of IRG and the quality of PRG. If early spring growth is important, mixing hybrids with PRG can be useful. However, as the persistency of hybrids is only four to five years, ley quality may decline quicker than PRG alone.
Benefit: High yielding with early spring growth
Examples: Aber HSG 2 Early cut, Aber HSG Short-term Overseeding
Additional species to consider
The following grasses can benefit specific requirements, particularly if you have challenging conditions, such as extended periods of wet or dry.
Winter hardy and able to cope with wet conditions, timothy is the toughest of the high-value energy plants. It can provide good yields for grazing but avoid using it in silage fields as the stem lignifies with age, causing a notable drop in D-value.
With a large root structure, cocksfoot is more tolerant of prolonged dry periods. Like timothy, its grazing yield is good, but less suited to cutting and can head quickly so needs to be grazed frequently.
Tall fescues or Meadow fescues
Fescues tolerate drought and waterlogging, supporting yields in demanding conditions, but are slower to establish and less responsive to nitrogen than perennials so need to be managed accordingly.
As a hybrid, festuloliums incorporate the stress tolerance of fescues with the yield benefits of ryegrasses. They can be useful in extreme conditions but vary in persistency depending on whether the fescue is crossed with a perennial or Italian ryegrass.
Common grass species with establishment and growth rates marked out of 10
|Species||Establishment||First year Growth||Continued Growth||Main Benefit|
|Perennial ryegrass (PRG)||7||7||7||Long-term, high yielding and high quality|
|Italian ryegrass (IRG)||10||10||1||High yielding over a short period|
|Hybrid||10||8||2||High yielding with early spring growth|
|Timothy||4||4||7||Winter hardy and tolerant of wet conditions|
|Cocksfoot||4||4||8||Tolerant of dry conditions|
|Fescue||2||4||8||Stress tolerance to both drought and waterlogging|
|Festulolium – IRG type||9||8||2||Stress tolerance with short-term high yields|
|Festulolium – PRG type||7||6||7||Stress tolerance with longer-term high yields|
Our perennial festulolium, AberRoot, is the product of crossing a North African fescue and Aber HSG varieties and the first of its kind to be included on the Recommended Grass and Clover List. It has the forage quality associated with Aber HSG and the rooting depth, drought and cold tolerance of a fescue native to the harsh conditions of the Atlas Mountains.
AberRoot shows growth in those difficult periods of early spring and mid-summer when grass growth can be slow and is being trialled on UK farms before the product becomes available next year.
Finding the best varieties to benefit your grassland
Once you know which species you need, choosing the best grass varieties helps maximise the production benefits. There is substantial variation between them and to choose the best available, use the Recommended Grass and Clover List (RGCL).
Varieties on the RGCL are independently tried and tested across the UK over a four-year period, guaranteeing they perform well in UK conditions, with only 1 in 20 making it to the final selection. Using RGCL-listed varieties means you are accessing the latest plant genetics to maximise the productivity of your grassland. The new list is published annually in May.
To find out more, please see the latest RGCL.