Annual Ryegrass

Scientific name(s)
Lolium multiflorum


  • Very strong cool season growth and good nutritive value
  • Makes good winter lawn


  • Short-lived

Plant description

Plant: Annual

Stems: hairless; blades up to 400 x 12 mm; young leaves rolled in bud.

Leaves: ~460,000/kg (diploid)

Flowers: Up to three small yellow flowers originating from the leaf axils.

Seedhead: spike up to 30 cm long; spikelets edge-on to the rachis which is recessed opposite each spikelet; 10-20 florets/spikelet, laterally flattened up to 25 mm long. Straight, fine awn up to 10 mm.


Short term pasture and high-yielding silage/hay crop

Short term competitive lawn

Where it grows

>650 mm (South); 800 mm (North).

Medium-heavy texture; high fertility.

Cold tolerant.


Companion species
Grasses: Hybrid ryegrass.

Legumes: White Clover, Red and Persian clovers.

Sowing/planting rates as single species
Pasture: 25-30 kg/ha (diploid cultivars); 20-40 (4n)
Lawn: 1-2 kg/100 sqm
Parks, rehabilitation or revegetation single species: 75 kg to 100 kg per hectare

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures
15-25 kg/ha (diploid cultivars); 20-40 (4n).

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures for rehabilitation or revegetation
50 to 75 kg per hectare

Sowing time

Not applicable

P and N


Maintenance fertiliser
Especially P and N.

Well suited to fodder conservation. Strip or rotational grazing facilitates efficient utilisation and maximum regrowth.

Ability to spread
Will spread from seed; seed set will occur if ungrazed/not cut and this will be associated with a substantial trade-off in nutritive value.

Weed potential
Low unless allowed to set seed

Major pests
Red and black-headed cockchafer, black field cricket, white-fringed weevil, African black beetle, corbies, underground grass caterpillar.

Major diseases

Herbicide susceptibility

Animal production

Feeding value

High and usually higher for tetraploid cultivars

Production potential
High winter growth; rapid spring growth pre-flowering early summer

Livestock disorders/toxicity
The ryegrass endophyte (Neotyphodium lolii) is not present in Italian ryegrass.

Over Sowing Existing Warm-Season Lawns

Sowing Time

The best time for over-sowing lawns composed of warm-season grasses is between February and July, if possible when rain is forecast.

Sowing rate

For best results sowing rates of between 1 to 2 kg per 100 m. Bag size is 25 kg.


Mow the lawn as low as you can (scalping). This will allow better seed to soil contact which is important in promoting faster germination of the sown seed.

A more professional approach is to use core aeration, or dethatching machinery. Both will remove lawn thatch and slightly disturb the soil giving improved seed to soil contact. Ask your seed supplier or hardware shop about hiring core aerators or dethatching machinery.

In some cases, due to compaction or shallow tree roots popping up in the lawn the topsoil layer may be too thin. Spread about 50 ml of screened topsoil over the area, and rake it in.

Over Sowing

A fertiliser spreader would come in handy now to make the job easier. Otherwise the old fashion way of hand broadcasting is what you will be doing. For best results go over the area broadcasting, from side to side, in a north to south direction then turn and broadcast in an east to west direction. Do this two or three times. This will ensure an even coverage of the seed.

If you have access to a light roller, roll the sown area.


Nothing beats steady rainfall but if that’s a bit light on then the grass seeds must be watered properly, in order to germinate. Use a fine spray, as you don’t want to create a flood! The soil should be kept evenly moist, with daily watering (depending on the weather), for several weeks. Best time to water in of an evening.


For best results a good NPK fertiliser should be applied at sowing. CK88 or GH303 which has high nitrogen content are commonly used. Apply at 1 to 2 kg per 100 m².

Grasses generally are more efficient at photosynthesis than trees. The more grass you grow the more carbon dioxide is converted to oxygen and sequestered into soil organic matter.