Buying inexpensive ryegrass seed for winter grazing is a bad business decision, warns a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

Nelson is a newly released ryegrass developed by Lloyd Nelson, AgriLife Research small grains breeder. It has a higher yield potential than premium ryegrasses such as TAM 90, Prine and Jumbo, he says.

“And in South Texas, it's higher than Marshall. In more northern areas, it’s not significantly higher than Marshall, but it’s competitive,” says Nelson, who also developed TAM 90 and TAMBO, other high-yielding ryegrasses.

However, despite the yield advantages, the most commonly planted ryegrass variety for winter pastures in Texas is probably Gulf. Why? Probably because its seed is cheaper.

“Gulf costs about 34-36¢/lb, while newer varieties like Nelson, Prine and TAMBO are about 45-48¢/lb,” he says.

At the recommended planting rates of 20-25 lbs/acre, farmers will save about $3/acre in seed costs. “But, for that $3 savings, they will typically give up about 2,000 lbs of high-quality forage per acre,” says Nelson.

That 2,000 lbs is the equivalent of at least two large round bales of hay per acre, which typically would sell for $40 or more each. “So it's not a good business decision, in my opinion, to scrimp on seed costs.”

He says there's still plenty of time to meet the ryegrass planting window for Texas, which is from mid-October through the first week of December. However, as with all varieties, Nelson ryegrass will need adequate soil moisture to emerge. Ryegrass is typically overseeded into existing dormant warm-season grass pastures after a light disking.

All ryegrasses will need to be fertilized to soil tests. Usually that means 100-150 lbs/acre of actual nitrogen during the season. Because of high nitrogen costs, farmers may try to grow ryegrass for winter pastures at a reduced nitrogen rate or not fertilize at all. That’s another bad business decision, Nelson says.

“If they're not going to fertilize, I wouldn't recommend them planting any ryegrass. Just buy the hay,” he says.