Reed Canary Grass Seed Production
Reed Canarygrass - Phalaris arundiacea
Description - Native cool season, tall course grass noted for its ability to grow in very wet or very dry soils. Able to tolerate flooding for up to two months. It is well adapted to both slightly acidic and slightly alkaline soils, but has no tolerance for salinity. The grass is a long lived perennial, spreads by thick underground stems called rhizomes, and eventually forms a dense sod that is able to support a great deal of traffic even when wet. Rhizomes grow throughout the summer developing from buds on old rhizomes. New shoots emerge from rhizome tips and buds. Shoots emerging in spring survive for just that season, but the shoots that emerge in fall generally persist into the next season.
Reed Canarygrass begins growth early in the spring before bromegrass or timothy, but after orchardgrass, growth continues throughout the growing season. The elongated stem bears up to nine leaves and supports a spike like panicle. Plants are up to 2 metres tall.
Seeds mature from the top of the seed head and drop off soon after ripening, reed canarygrass seed is small (181,000 seeds/pound) seeds are shiny, light gray to black or yellow. Seeds mature in early July. Reed canarygrass needs to be vernalized to initiate flowering and seed production. Regrowth after the first cut remains vegetative with no seed heads forming.
Distinguishing Features - The wide leaf blades (up to 30cm) and 2cm wide. The edges of the blade are constricted 5 cm from either the tip or the collar.
Seed yields - Expected seed yields can average 300 lb/ac with 600lb/ac yields possible.
Seed prices - To the grower prices of 0.90$ - 1.25$/lb
Alkaloids - low palatability of native and early reed canarygrass has been linked to high concentrations of potentially toxic compounds known as alkaloids. New low-alkaloid varieties of reed canarygrass are now available. Choose from these new cultivars available.
Establishment - Recommended to clear seed(no cover crop) in early spring
Seeding rate - 12" rows - 2.5 lbs/ac or 24 seeds/ft
- 24" rows - 1.3 lbs/ac or 30 seeds/ft
- 30" rows - 0.9 lbs/ac or 30 seeds/ft
Fertility - up to 10 lb/ac P in the form of 12-51-0 may be mixed with the seed remainder to be broadcast and incorporated prior to seeding according to soil test.
Stand Management -
Established stand fertility - Reed canarygrass requires sufficient nitrogen for good seed production potential. Rates of 75-100 lb/ac are recommenced in production years applied in late fall or very early spring.
Renovation - Reed canarygrass will fill in and become to thick and sod bound to produce a good seed crop. Following harvest clip and bale off forage, do not remove regrowth in the fall as this will decrease seed yield. A renovation operation following the second seed crop is usually necessary. Either a inter-row cultivation when row cropped or a early spring burn to remove old growth and thin the stand is used. Stands should be Burning in fall will dramatically reduce seed yields in the following year.
Harvesting- Shatters very easily, high winds can mean a total crop loss. For top grade 55% of seed must be viable mid-late July about will be brown to grey. Seed head moisture content should be 50-55% at swathing. Swathing reduces shattering, but reed canarygrass can be straight combined on the green side and dried. Minnesota experience has been positive with straight combining and aeration drying. Seed should be dried with aeration (temp less than 38 C) improper drying reduces germination. Raise table if straight cutting to avoid basal leaves. Cylinder speed should be slowed and air intake reduced, concaves should be adjusted so seeds are not dehulled.
Combine settings - Cylinder clearance -1/4"
Cylinder speed - 850
Air adjustment - 1-2"open
Weed Control - few chemicals registered - important to start with a clean field and spot treat patches of quackgrass and other perennial weeds