Jan 2021

4 Whys – Why doesn’t ryegrass persist?

Lets set the scene…


There are so many theories out there today, around the reasons why and why not ryegrass doesn;t persist like it used to.

The facts are, it has always been a problem.



NZGA has a paper dated 1989 “FIFTY YEARS OF RYEGRASS RESEARCH IN NEW ZEALAND” (W.F. Hunt and H.S. Easton)

Their Conclusion reads:

“Notable areas waiting further study are the factors affecting ryegrass failure…. Good data are lacking on the relative importance of the elements which undermine ryegrass persistence”

22 years later…. 2011, NZGA held a Pasture Symposium in Hamilton, to present a stack of insightful papers to help educate and inform the industry of the issues at hand.

10 years later…. 2021, here we are, still wondering why pastures are failing.


So many questions… there HAS to be a reason!

Well, you’d agree – the key is to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Let me introduce the 4 Legged Stool concept:

 Pasture is the seat, and its survival is supported by 4 legs:

  1. Soil types and Nutrient requirements
  2. Climate Seasonality
  3. Ryegrass Breeding and Endophyte status
  4. Grazing Management 


I’m sure you understand what happens when you start removing legs? yup – its goes from unstable to falling over very quickly.

Our goal with this series is:

  • To raise your awareness of the reasons
  • To help you identify the levers you can pull to optimise persistence on your property
  • Guide you in implementing your own long term persistent pasture production strategy


Having recently visited multiple ryegrass breeders in December 2020, we’ve seen first-hand what their goals / motivators are when selecting new cultivars.

Match the Market – what farmers ask for is what they select for, which in the main is ‘more milk in the vat’ or ‘more liveweight gain/ha’

Performance – they want the best looking, fastest growing ryegrass on the market… and while persistence is a factor of permanent ryegrass, its certainly not at the top

Quality – they want the best looking nutritional data sheet on the market and the stock absolutely must like it… in fact totally love it!



Have we, as Farmers been demanding higher performance?

Maybe.  Consider these points:

  • Grass is the most convenient/cost effective source of quality feed
  • We want to grow as much of it as we can
  • Perennial Ryegrass can be expensive to establish (initially) so we like to maximise our return by grazing as often as possible
  • Unwittingly, we sometimes sacrifice longevity for todays production demands
  • One leg of the stool, “climate” is one of the biggest influencers on pasture persistence, and we can only control the aftermath

SO, where’s the balance?

High Production vs Persistence

We need production – it puts money in the bank

We need persistence – it achieves better return on new pasture investment

How do I maximise my return on investment in not only the new pasture, but in every square meter of land I own?


Stay tuned!

Over the next few Episodes we will help you understand the levers you can pull to make a difference here.


Want to find out sooner?

Please feel free to book a chat with one of our Agronomists – they are ready to discuss this as soon as you are.

Fill out the contact form below to provide us with a few more details – we will be in touch soon.


Thanks for your time, all the best,

The Smart Team