The seasonal variation in photosynthetic rate of grass swards is partly the result of changes in the environment and partly the result of changes in the photosynthetic capacity of the sward itself. We evaluated two types of photosynthesis equations regarding their capacity to analyse seasonal and short-term temperature effects on photosynthesis of ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Intact cores of a field-grown ryegrass sward were taken to the laboratory 10 d after cutting for measurement of photosynthesis under controlled conditions. This was done during two four-week periods, in summer and autumn. Net photosynthetic rate (PN) of the sward was lower in autumn than in summer. Both a simple negatively exponential photosynthesis irradiance-response curve and the Farquhar equations for photosynthesis were applied to the in vivo canopy measurements. Application of the irradiance-response curve showed that irradiance-saturated gross photosynthetic rate increased linearly with increasing temperature and was higher in summer than in autumn. The initial radiation use efficiency did not differ between the seasons but decreased with the temperature rise. This explains the observation that total canopy photosynthetic rate decreased after short-term temperature increases in both seasons. The parameters in Farquhar equations that represent the temperature sensitivity of the maximum electron transport rate and of the Michaelis-Menten constants for CO2 and O2 fixation could not be quantified satisfactorily. Parameterisation of the Farquhar equations was hampered by a lack of robust information on many biochemical parameters, and the use of simple empirical response-functions may be preferable in the case of in vivo canopy measurements on grass swards.