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Meadow timothy grass

Meadow timothy grass (also timothy-grass, meadow cat’s-tail or common cat’s tail) is a fodder crop related to perennial cereal grasses.

Meadow timothy grass (Phleum pratense)
Meadow timothy grass (Phleum pratense)
Source: commons.wikimedia.org
©Franz Xaver (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Economic importance

Timothy meadow is one of the common types of cereal grasses in Russia. It can be cultivated in pure crops (rarely) or in grass mixtures, in particular with red clover, in field or fodder crop rotations.

Timothy grass is usually used in field crop rotations mixed with clover for 2-3 years, in hay and pasture – 5-6 years. It is well eaten by animals in hay and pasture. Aftertaste is weak compared to other pasture

100 kg of timothy hay harvested during the flowering period contains 40.5 feed units, 3.1-4.1 kg of digestible protein. 100 kg of fresh grass – 28.8 feed units and 1.7 kg of digestible protein.

Crop history

It was first introduced into culture in the Vologda province at the end of the 17th – beginning of the 18th centuries. (possibly earlier).

Cultivation areas

Meadow timothy grass is widely cultivated in the field and meadow grass sowing of the Non-Chernozem and the north of the Forest-Steppe zones, as well as the Far North and the North Caucasus.


The yield of grass mixtures is usually higher than pure crops. For example, the yield of a mixture of timothy grass and red clover was, on average, 20% higher over two years than the pure sowing of clover (All-Russian Research Institute of Fodder).

Depending on the soil and climatic conditions, the yield of hay varies from 3 to 8 t/ha, seeds – from 300 to 800 kg/ha.

The hay yield of a mixture of clover and timothy grass under favorable cultivation conditions reaches 3.5-5 t/ha.

Botanical description

Timothy genus includes 11 species. Meadow timothy grass (Phleum pratense L.) is used in production – a perennial (mid-summer) loose-bush plant.

The root system is fibrous, located mainly in the upper layers of the soil, penetrates to a depth of 70-90 cm.

The stems are hollow, cylindrical, erect, well leafy, articulated in the lower part, 60-130 cm high. They form a powerful bush.

The leaves are linear or lanceolate, light green to dark green.

Inflorescence -spike panicle, or false ear (sultan), cylindrical or cone-shaped, up to 10-20 cm long. Small flowers.

Seeds – small caryopses, round-oval, dull shiny in films, yellow-brown without films. Weight of 1000 seeds 0.3-0.5 g.

Biological features

Temperature requirements

Seeds begin to germinate at a temperature of 1-2 °C. The optimum germination temperature is 15-20 °C. Frost resistance and winter hardiness are high, in this property it is not inferior to winter rye . Resistant to spring frosts.

Does not tolerate high temperatures well.

The beginning of the growing season in spring occurs when the average daily temperature is 5 °C. The optimum air temperature during the formation of the vegetative mass and flowering is 18-19 °C.

Moisture requirements

Timothy meadow refers to moisture-loving plants. Poorly tolerates drought, which leads to thinning, sometimes complete death of crops.

For the formation of 1 unit of dry mass, the total evaporation of water reaches 500 units.

Withstands flooding up to 30-40 days.

Soil requirements

Timothy grass meadow can grow well on various soils. Tolerates acidic soils up to pH 4.5-5.0.

Sandy, swampy and saline areas are not suitable for its cultivation.

Plant nutrition

With a high yield of hay or seeds, meadow timothy grass consumes a large amount of nutrients from the soil, primarily nitrogen and potassium. For the formation of 1 ton of hay, 13-1.4 kg of N, 6-8 kg of P2O5 and 19-20 kg of K2O are taken out of the soil. For the formation of 100 kg of seeds with a seed crop and the corresponding amount of aboveground mass, – 22.7 kg N, 6.3 kg P2O5 and 25.6 kg K2O.

The maximum consumption of nutrients falls on the period of tillering and emergence into the tube.


In the first year of life, meadow timothy develops slowly, reaching full development for 2-3 years of life. It gives the greatest yields of hay and seeds from the age of 3. In grass stands it lasts 3-4 years, under favorable conditions – 6-8 years.

When grown for hay, it gives 2 cuttings, for pasture it can give 3-4 grazing, but is quickly replaced by other more pasture-tolerant grasses.

Differs in intensive initial tillering, which decreases with age.

In each bush (plant) of timothy grass there are three types of shoots:

  • shortened vegetative, consisting of a bunch of leaves;
  • elongated vegetative, having developed stems without inflorescences;
  • generative, including the stem and inflorescences.

At the base of the developed shoots there are thickenings in the form of an onion, which act as a receptacle for reserve nutrients. The number of shoots in one bush varies from 6 to 280.

Timothy meadow tillering begins in spring, continues in the summer-autumn period. Shoots after passing through the generative phase die off, so one shoot usually lives for one year. Therefore, with long-term use of meadow timothy, they mow at least 4 cm from the soil surface so that the preserved vegetative shoots of the lower tier grow well and give a full-fledged bush next year.

Type of development of spring or winter-spring.

Crop rotation

In field crops, timothy grass is usually sown in a mixture with red clover, alfalfa, or other perennial leguminous grasses. In its pure form, it is sown for seed purposes, in which case the crops are placed in special crop rotations after root crops or potatoes fertilized with manure.

In crop rotation, it serves as a good predecessor for flax, spring and winter wheat and other grain crops.


For less weediness of timothy herbage, meadow manure is applied under the previous crop in the amount of 30-40 t/ha.

This crop responds well to nitrogen fertilization and increased rates of litter-free manure.

Seed yield of meadow timothy grass without manure was 209 kg/ha on average over 3 years, while with 40 t/ha of manure it was 1082 kg/ha, with 90 kg/ha of nitrogen it was 520 kg/ha (All-Russian Research Institute of Fodder). Recommended fertilizer application rates for seed crops N45-60P30-45.

In the case of sowing grass mixture under the cover of winter cereals, 20-30 t/ha of organic fertilizers and P30-45K30-45 are applied. The same fertilizer application rates are used when sown in a mixture with clover under the cover of spring cereals or annual grasses.


Soil tillage corresponds to cover crop cultivation.

Soil cultivation when sowing timothy grass in its pure form for seeds should ensure good soil preparation, a loose structure of the arable layer, leveling the surface and cleanliness of crops from weeds . These requirements are due to the very small seeds of timothy grass and the slow development of plants at the beginning of the growing season of the first year of life. To do this, autumn is carried out stubble peeling and plowing. In early spring, harrowing, cultivation and leveling of the soil surface with a special tool are carried out, after which timothy is sown under the cover of spring cereals. Summer coverless crops of bluegrass seed plants are also used. In this case, pre-sowing rolling is carried out.


Mixtures of timothy and clover are usually sown in the spring under a cover of annual grasses or cereals. Under winter crops, timothy grass is oversown in the fall simultaneously with the cover crop, and clover – in the spring for winter crops. Under spring clover and timothy are sown simultaneously with a cover crop, usually inter-row sowing with grain-grass seeders.

The seeding rate in double grass mixtures is 6-8 kg/ha, in triple and mixed with clover – 4-6 kg/ha. Seeding depth 1-2 cm.

When growing timothy grass for seed purposes, a wide-row sowing method is used. The seeding rate is 4-5 kg/ha. The usual row method can also be used with a seeding rate of 8-10 kg/ha.

Crop care

After sowing, it is recommended to roll the soil.

Meadow timothy seeds are very sensitive to clogging, especially in the first 1.5-2 months after sowing. On wide-row and coverless crops, the first inter-row treatment is carried out after the emergence of seedlings at a shallow depth, when the rows are indicated. The second treatment is carried out when new shoots of weeds appear. If necessary, make a third inter-row processing. For inter-row cultivation, the same machines are used as in the cultivation of row crops.

During the years of using the herbage, fertilizers are applied to the testes in the spring, after which harrowing is carried out in two tracks. Herbicides can be used against weeds, for example, 2,4-D butyl ether at a rate of 0.4-0.8 kg/ha at the appearance of 2-3 leaves and before going into the tube.


The optimal time for harvesting a mixture of clover and timothy is the budding of the clover and raising the panicle at the timothy.

For seeds, timothy grass begins to be harvested in the phase of full ripeness by direct combining or in the phase of wax ripeness with a separate method. Grass seeds harvested by a combine often contain a large amount of weed seeds and have high moisture content. Therefore, a heap from under the combine is scattered in a thin layer on the current and periodically mixed. Dryers may also be used. After drying, the seeds are cleaned on sorting machines and stored for storage. Humidity should be no more than 15%.


Crop production / P.P. Vavilov, V.V. Gritsenko, V.S. Kuznetsov and others; Ed. P.P. Vavilov. – 5th ed., revised. and additional – M.: Agropromizdat, 1986. – 512 p.: ill. – (Textbook and textbooks for higher educational institutions).

V.V. Kolomeichenko. Crop production / Textbook. — M.: Agrobusinesscenter, 2007. — 600 p. ISBN 978-5-902792-11-6.

Fundamentals of agricultural production technology. Agriculture and crop production. Ed. V.S. Niklyaev. – M .: “Epic”, 2000. – 555 p.