The Recommended Grass & Clover List is for farmer in England and Wales. It is made up of data from several sites, predominately in England but with contributions from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The data produced from these sites is a four year process, coming toward the end of a 15–17 year cycle entered by breeders to produce new grass varieties. The data is reviewed by a committee of breeders, wholesalers, merchants, farmers and industry experts every year.
If a grass or clover variety is on the list, its is fit for purpose, it is a quality variety and will be legally allowed to be sold in the UK, however, some will be better suited to your farm’s requirements than others. Always remember though, you are likely to be sowing a mixture and not a straight variety as, particularly in medium and longer rotations, one variety cannot do it all.
Know what you are are trying to achieve with your grassland. You have identified the worst field on the farm with the Grassland Index, you have the soil in the appropriate condition for reseeding, the next step is be specific with what you want this new sward of grass to do. Is it season long grazing for livestock, a multicut system for housed cattle or to feed an AD plant for example? How long is your rotation?
If you are located in an area prone to grass diseases then ensure that the grass mix you are considering has a high disease resistance overall. Don’t discount a mixture that includes one with a lower disease resistance because this will be balanced out with higher resistant varieties and you may look out on key attributes by looking at a variety in isolation.
How to select the correct grass species
Italian ryegrasses – ideal for short term rotations with large volumes of grass (20t DM/ha is achievable dependant on fertility and growing conditions) produced over a long growing season. They will persist for 2 years and are better suited to cutting regimes but can be grazed. Larger seeds so may produce an open sward base particularly where no grazing occurs.
Perennial Ryegrasses – ideal where grass is required for longer term rotations of 5 years or over. They are the most flexible ryegrass option. Split into early, intermediate and late heading – select earlier heading dates where early growth is vital e.g. lambing, select later heading dates for later season growth e.g. late spring turnout of cattle on heavier soils. Select mixtures with tighter heading dates under frequent cutting systems for crop uniformity. Smaller seeds so better ground cover for longevity and 1st year yield potential of 17 tDM/ha.
Hybrid Ryegrasses – a cross between Italian and Perennial ryegrasses, a nice compromise between yield and longevity for medium term rotations of 3 – 5 years with the ability to be cut and/or grazed although they are slightly more suited to a bit more emphasis on cutting. This group is most varied, the parent genetics will influence how the variety performs.
Diploid or tetraploid – Tetraploid ryegrasses have 28 chromosomes compared to diploids who have 14. In practical terms, tetraploids have larger seeds, so a smaller plant population, and a more upright growth habit making them more clover friendly. The bigger seeds of tetraploids makes them more aggressive and quicker to establish so useful in overseeding situations. Diploids have a higher seed number and the ability to produce more tillers per plant giving them superior persistence, ground cover, ability to compete with weeds and tolerate heavier soils and more traffic.
Timothy – A very small seed so required in smaller percentages in mixtures and will give excellent ground coverage ideally suited to heavier wetter soils. It is perennial, palatable and can be cut or grazed. Heading dates coincide with the late perennial ryegrasses.
White Clover – provides N fixation, protein, minerals, mid-summer sward digestibility and improved animal performance compared to grass only. It is a perennial species and is classified by leaf size. Select smaller leaved varieties for heavier sheep grazing through to larger leaved varieties for silage production. A blend of sizes is a wise choice for dual purpose fields.
Red Clover – better suited to cutting with an upright growth habit. It is less persistent than white clover and less tolerant of colder, wetter conditions and poor grassland management. Where well managed, it provides higher yields than white clover or grass only swards and in good growing conditions can achieve CP of 19% and fix 200kg N/ha/annum.
Remember the RGCL is limited to only a few species, so there may be other to consider outwith the recommended list scope.