Perennial ryegrass (PRG)

Perennial RyegrassPerennial ryegrass

PRG is the basis for most improved or semi-improved pasture. There has been a lot of research and plant breeding invested in developing today’s varieties. PRG has many positive attributes:

  • High output and quality
  • High palatability
  • Long growing season
  • Can withstand hard grazing
  • Has good disease resistance
  • Responsive to nitrogen

However, it also has its negatives:

  • Has shallow root system, which leads to
  • Poor drought resistance / mid season drop in production and
  • Variable persistency and
  • Some winter kill
  • Needs high nitrogen inputs
  • Poor tolerance of acid soils

Italian Ryegrass (IRG)

Italian ryegrassItalian ryegrass

IRG is really only suitable for short-term leys.

Positive characteristics of Italian Ryegrass:

  • Establishes rapidly
  • Responds to  / requires high nitrogen
  • High output and quality
  • Early spring growth
  • Late heading – remember, when the seed head forms, production and quality drop.

Negative characteristics:

  • Biennial
  • Prone to winter kill
  • Poor tolerance of acid soils
  • Poor disease resistance
  • Poor tolerance of hard cutting and grazing

Hybrid ryegrasses

IRG x PRG – have been developed to produce grasses with:

  • High yield and quality
  • High energy
  • High D value
  • Persistence
  • Early growth
  • Good disease resistance

While the ryegrasses will form the basis of a grass seed mix, other grass species may be added to bring their particular qualities.

Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata)


Cocksfoot is a versatile grass that will grow on soils ranging from light sand to wet clay. When used in combination with other grasses and clovers, it can make a wonderful sward.

Positive characteristics of Cocksfoot:

  • Deep roots for drought resistance
  • Early growing
  • Good foggage grass
  • Persistent so suitable for medium tem leys
  • Requires low nitrogen input

Negative characteristics:

  • Poor palatability
  • Low D value
  • Grows in clumps unless hard grazed
  • Slow to establish


Timothy grassTimothy grass

Timothy grass is named after Timothy Hanson, an American farmer who is thought to have introduced it from New England to the southern U.S. states in the early 18th century.

Positive characteristics of Timothy grass:

  • Tolerates wet soil so
  • High output on heavy soil but lower yielding on light soils
  • High D Value
  • Palatable
  • Persistent in cold areas and winter hardy


  • Doesn’t tolerate hard grazing so tends to be used in hay mixes

Meadow fescue

Meadow fescueMeadow fescue

Meadow fescue is a very persistent grass. It does not require high temperatures for active growth, and is very winterhardy.


  • Palatable
  • Flood tolerant
  • Winter hardy


  • Difficult to establish
  • Not persistent

Other species

There are many other species too:

  • Crested dogtail, creeping bent, golden oat grass, meadow foxtail – all yield well in no nitrogen situations
  • Rough meadow grass does well on moist soils
  • Tall Fescue is drought resistant and high yielding

If you are planning to overseed, take time to look at different mixtures available and pick one that is suitable for your needs.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2024. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS