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Perennial grasses

Perennial grasses are a group of crops grown for green fodder for farm animals or for making hay, haylage, grass meal.

Perennial grasses account for 19 million hectares, which is 15% of the area occupied by all fodder crops .


Benefits of perennial grasses:

  • the opportunity to receive food for animals from early spring to late autumn. All perennial grasses cultivated in field crop rotations begin to grow when the average daily air temperature reaches 5 °C, or about two weeks after the snow cover melts and continues until the onset of autumn frosts; a long growing period allows them to be used for the production of haylage, silage, hay, briquettes and pellets or as pasture crops. The average yield of hay is 1.6 t/ha.
  • Green mass and hay of perennial grasses are distinguished by high fodder qualities. For example, clover hay has a high content of digestible protein, and the nutritional value of 1 kg is 0.52 feed units. Granules and briquettes made from the green mass of perennial grasses are not inferior in nutritional value to oat grain .
  • Perennial grasses serve as an effective means of protecting soil from water and wind erosion. So in Kazakhstan, on soils subjected to strong wind erosion, crop rotations have been introduced, in which the share of
  • Perennial grasses is more than 50%. For example, soil washout for 4 showers with a slope of 8-9 °, sown with winter wheat, amounted to 28.8 m3/ha, with a slope of 4-6 °, sown with sugar beet – 28.6 m3/ha, while with a slope 8-9°, sown with alfalfa (2nd year) – 0 (Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute of Farming).
  • Perennial grasses delay the leaching (infiltration) of nutrients beyond the root layer. For example, the leaching of nitrogen and potassium on grasses is 6-7 times less than on winter wheat crops or on fallow fields (Department of Crop Production Moscow Agricultural Academy).
  • Perennial grasses contribute to the accumulation of organic matter in the soil, contributing to the reproduction of fertility. In particular, with an increase in the content of humus in the soil, thermal conductivity and heat capacity improve, which is especially important in a continental climate as a way to mitigate the effect of negative temperatures on winter crops in winter.

Organic matter also improves the water regime of soils, reduces evaporation of moisture, increases the efficiency of water use by plants, reduces the infiltration of nutrients beyond the root horizon as a result of an increase in absorption capacity , improves the phytosanitary condition and agrophysical indicators.

However, perennial grasses can provide a positive balance of organic matter in the soil under the condition of high green mass yields. On the contrary, with low yields, they do not justify their purpose.

  • Perennial grasses of the legume family, as a result of their ability to fix nitrogen, enrich the soil with nitrogen. For example, clover is able to leave up to 100-150 kg/ha of nitrogen in the soil, alfalfa – up to 300 kg/ha. This property is due to the increased yields of crops sown on a layer of perennial grasses than when sown on old arable lands. The aftereffect of perennial grasses persists for three years, which must be taken into account in the construction of crop rotations.
    In crop rotation, perennial grasses can serve as a good predecessor for winter wheat, winter rye, spring wheat, flax, millet, cotton, and other crops.


Perennial grasses are divided into perennial leguminous grasses and perennial grasses. In modern feed production, their mixtures are usually used.

Perennial fodder grasses include:

  1. perennial legumes:
    • clover (white (Trifolium repens), meadow (red clover, Trifolium pratense), hybrid (alsike clover, Trifolium hybridum), lupine (Trifolium lupinaster));
    • alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Medicago falcata);
    • sainfoin (Onobrychis);
    • common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus);
    • melilot (Melilotus);
    • goat ‘s rue (Galega);
  2. perennial cereal:
    • timothy (Phleum pratense);
    • meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis);
    • cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata);
    • rump boneless (Bromus inermis);
    • wheatgrass (Agropyron);
    • rootless wheatgrass ;
    • Siberian wheatgrass (Elymus sibiricus);
    • meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis);
    • ryegrass (high (Arrhenatherum elatius), multicut (Lolium multiflorum), perennial (Lolium perenne)).


A distinctive feature of perennial grasses is their ability to vegetative renewal, which determines their long-term life cycle. Thus, lateral shoots of bluegrass grasses are formed every year from the tillering node, and legumes during the growing season – from the buds of the root collar and the main stem.

Depending on the soil and climatic conditions of the zones, various herbs are grown. For example, in the Non-Chernozem zone, meadow and hybrid clover , meadow timothy grass, meadow fescue, and hedgehog are cultivated, while in the southern regions – alfalfa, sainfoin, wheatgrass, rootless couch grass, awnless brome, high ryegrass.

In addition, in each specific locality and economy, a set of perennial herbs is determined, taking into account biological characteristics and natural conditions.

In field and near-farm crop rotations, grasses can be sown in their pure form, for example, one legume or, less commonly, bluegrass.

Often there are mixtures of perennial herbs. Mixtures are divided into simple and complex. Simple grass mixtures include one legume and one bluegrass. Complex ones include three or more types of herbs. Simple grass mixtures are usually used in field and near-farm crop rotations, complex – in hay and pasture and soil protection , as well as to create cultivated pastures.

The period of use of perennial grasses varies from 2-3 years (red clover) to 6-10 years (bluegrass).


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.