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Can You Identify the Grasses?

Do you know your grasses?

Neighbouring fields can be made up of a completely different mix of grasses, some of which are shown in the illustrations here.

Firstly, can you identify them and secondly, do you recognise them from your own fields? Are you confident enough to challenge people around the kitchen table?


Can you name the grasses?

(Illustration source: “Guide to Common Grasses” by the Field Studies Council. The FSC also produce comprehensive and useful literature on more grass species as well as common grassland plants/weeds)


Cocksfoot: early growth and quick recovery post-grazing. Relatively drought resistant thanks to deep roots, so may continue to grow when other grasses burn up in summer. Can become coarse and tufted with poor management.


Meadow fescue: widespread, prefers loamy and heavy soils. Deep rooted, can withstand drought and cold. Fescues are known for being persistent and for yielding well. Festulolium (fescue species crossed with a ryegrass species) combines the most desirable traits from both.


Timothy: shallower rooting so can be less tolerant of drought conditions but tolerates wet winters and heavy soil. Early spring growth but flowers later than ryegrass. Valuable feed for livestock and tends to maintain quality for longer than other grasses. Suffers under continuous grazing.


For more information on grass reseeding call the Seed Line on 01769 576232.

Common culprits when productivity is lacking


Common Couch grass: a vigorous perennial grass that can survive in a wide range of soils and conditions, often growing in clumps. It prefers heavier land but is able to spread more readily in lighter soils (and especially vigorous on fallow land). Suffers under continuous, hard grazing.


Common Bent: found on acid soils, meadows and rough ground with poor nutrient status and/or poorly drained. Can flourish under hard grazing and may become prevalent in upland pastures.


Annual meadow grass: encouraged by hard grazing/poaching and can withstand considerable trampling. Swamped out by other species in well managed swards.


Rough meadow grass: becomes established under severe grazing. Fairly palatable but low productivity and quality compared to ryegrass. Cold tolerant but poor early growth.


Yorkshire fog: typically on wet, poorly drained areas. Palatability is low and may cause an allergic reaction around the eyes of cattle grazing it.


Foxtail: tolerant of seasonal flooding and a range of pH. Can cause infections and abscesses in livestock when the awns become lodged in mouth, nose and eye tissues.


Of all of the grass species shown here, none can maintain the quality and productivity of a well managed perennial ryegrass ley. However, do not shy away from “anything that isn’t ryegrass” as some grass species (or alternative forage crops) should be considered when deciding on the crop best suited to different conditions. Assessing performance of the current ley is essential. Once productivity is falling (or ryegrass makes up less than 50% of the ley), it is time to think about improving it if you are to achieve the most from forage in terms of quantity and quality.


Source Details

 627 Mole Valley Farmers Newsletter

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