Historic, Archive Document
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.ed States Department of Agriculture,
BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY,
Forage Crop Investigations,
WASHINGTON, I /. C.
ITALIAN RYE-GRASS ( Lolium italicum).
Description.— Italian ryergrass'is an erect or slightly decumbent grass, gener-
ally considered an annual or a short-lived perennial, lasting, as a rule, about two
ears. A native of Europe, it has been cultivated in Great Britain for many
ears, being considered there one of the best hay grasses. The blades have a
jeculiar shining green color, and are most abundant near the base of the plant,
giving it a very pleasing appearance when young. The seed head resembles
that of perennial rye very much, except that the seed possesses an awn, or
Italian rye-grass grows very rapidly, producing a good hay crop the same sea-
son in which it is sown. The quality of the hay is good and the yield on rich
soil is generally superior to that of timothy and other hay grasses for the first
Value.— In England on land watered by liquid manure it is reported to yield
from four to eight cuttings of very palatable ha}'. In the United States, how-
ever, it has not gained the prominence that it enjoys in Europe. West of the
Cascade Mountains in Washington and Oregon, and in the corresponding dis-
trict of northern California, it is looked upon with considerable favor. It does
well on the irrigated lands in central Washington, and on the upland wheat soils
of that State and northern Idaho near the mountains, where the rainfall is ample,
but in the latter region it does not grow a strong straw and is liable to lodge
badly in unfavorable weather. Its adaptability to widely diverse soil and climatic
conditions is remarkable. In California it has won a reputation as a drought-
resistant grass, while in the East it has been known to thrive in periods of very
In the South Atlantic States, especially along the seacoast, it has found favor
as an annual hay grass. Under such circumstances it is sown early in the fall
and its rapid growth brings it to maturity about the middle of June. The hay
is valued highly by liverymen and the yield is much better than that of timothy.
Several farmers have successfully seeded cowpeas after harvesting the Italian
rye-grass, thus securing two crops from the land in one season.
The use of Italian rye-grass in pasture mixtures throughout the Eastern and
Central States is recommended on account of its quick germination and strong
early growth. Sown in the fall, it comes on in the spring and furnishes pastur-
age while the other grasses are getting started and, by its superior strength of
root, prevents the more shallow rooted grasses from heaving out during the first
winter. It is relished as a pasture by both horses and cattle, but should always
bear a minor part in pasture mixtures because of the short duration of its growth.
Although it is not recognized generally, Italian rye-grass has always played a
prominent part in the standard lawn-grass mixtures put up by seed houses.
Its value in such mixtures is due to the fact that it germinates strongly and
quickly, occupies the ground with a covering of the richest, brightest green, thus
keeping out troublesome weeds, and then disappears at the end of the year giv-
ing place to Kentucky bluegrass, creeping bent, and other strongly perennial
grasses with a finer leaf.
Seeding. — Seed of the Italian rye-grass may be obtained of the larger seed
houses who handle imported seed. Although most of the seed used in this coun-
try at the present time is produced in England, the price is reasonable, ranging
from 6 to 12 cents per pound. A bushel of the seed weighs about 24 pounds,
and from 20 to 30 pounds are required to seed an acre of ground. This grass is
almost invariably sown without a nurse crop. The ground should be prepared
for seeding by a deep plowing, and then leveled by a thorough use of the disk
or smoothing harrow. The continued use of the spike-tooth harrow until the
ground is well settled is advisable. No one thing is the cause of so many fail-
ures in seeding grasses as a loose seed bed. When the soil is thoroughly firmed
the seed may be sown broaden °t £u~d harrowed in or seeded with a press drill,
.Lt ^ to a aep t . oi xrom one-half to two inches, depending on
the nature of the soil. In a heavy clay soil the covering should be extremely
light, while in a sandy, loose soil so much care need not be exercised.
For use in lawns sufficient of the rye-grass seed should be used to insure a fair
stand of it if quick results are desired. Although the blades are somewhat coarse,
the effect is pleasing, owing to the brilliant green color of the foliage.
In laying a Bermuda grass lawn in the South, either with seed or by the use
of sod, it is suggested that 20 pounds per acre of Italian rye-grass seed be sown
at the same time. This seed, germinating quickly, will occupy the ground and
give the lawn a pleasing appearance while the Bermuda is throwing out its
H. N. Vinall,
Scientific Assistant in Agrostology.