Fall Rye Overview
Updated July 06, 2022

Fall Rye Overview

Farmer Tested for Higher Yields and Cleaner Fields

We answer some of your questions about fall rye: - Why you would grow fall rye - What is the difference between hybrid fall rye and conventional fall rye - What are the marketing options for rye - Why you would choose fall rye over winter wheat

Why grow fall rye on your farm?

Fall rye is seeded in the fall, overwinters and is harvested the following summer. Fall rye has an extensive root system allowing it to access early spring moisture and available nitrogen quickly and effectively. It grows faster and matures earlier than other winter cereals and therefore allows farmers in some regions to "double crop" by harvesting 2 forage crops (the rye and another forage crop) in one season. With its early maturity, rye is a very effective cover crop for areas that are susceptible to high winds and soil erosion. It also is an efficient user of water and therefore can be more drought tolerant than wheat or barley for example.

What is the difference between hybrid fall rye and conventional fall rye?

Hybrid Fall Rye is seed that has been developed from controlled cross breeding of two plant varieties which ultimately provides a hybrid seed that is more uniform and consistent than conventional fall rye which relies on cross pollination between plants in the field to yield a crop.

The advantage of hybrid rye seed is that it will typically provide much higher yields (>20% higher yielding) than conventional fall rye.

The disadvantage of hybrid seed is that it is more expensive than conventional rye seed per acre, and secondly farmers can not reuse their harvested seed for their own use for next year's crop. This is because hybrid seed in a second generation will be much lower yielding, have less vigor, and be quite variable in physical characteristics.

What are the markets for fall rye?

If harvested for grain, rye can go to food and feed markets. On the food front, according to SeedNet's website (www.seednet.ca): "approximately 80% of the rye destined for the food market is exported to the USA. Of this, around 66% goes to the distillers and 33% goes to the millers. The Canadian rye market includes several distilleries and a few specialty millers and bakers. Most of Canada’s rye flour is processed in the USA and sold back to Canada". Contracts are recommended if you are growing for this market.

Rye is becoming more accepted in the feed market and is becoming an established component of pig rations in many parts of the world. Again, we recommend you contact buyers to confirm interest in rye grain for feed purposes.

Finally, rye is commonly used for cattle silage and harvest timing is either prior to heading or at the milky head stage depending on your feed requirements. It also provides some grazing opportunities for cattle.

Why grow fall rye versus winter wheat?

Fall rye is grows faster and matures earlier in the spring than winter wheat and winter triticale. This enables you to take an earlier forage crop and gives you a better chance to put in a second forage crop to "double crop".