Pros and Cons of growing winter wheat versus hybrid rye
Updated June 24, 2024

Pros and Cons of Winter Wheat versus Hybrid Rye

Farmer Tested for Higher Yields and Cleaner Fields

This article gives a quick summary of the high level differences between winter wheat and hybrid rye and the factors that might influence your decision as to which fall crop to grow this year.

It can be confusing trying to pick whether to seed winter wheat or hybrid rye this fall. Here are things to consider in making this decision:

- Seeding timing: Hybrid rye can be seeded earlier than winter wheat. It is also hardier than winter wheat (better winter survival) and suffers more grazing than winter wheat.

- Disease management: Hybrid rye is more susceptible to ergot than winter wheat (if you take it to grain maturity instead of harvesting it for forage).

- Harvest timing: Hybrid rye matures 1- 2 weeks earlier than winter wheat for forage purposes (not for grain purposes) - this makes it easier to seed another forage crop like barley if you are trying to do a double silage crop for example.

- Yield expectations: Hybrid rye grain yield should yield about 15% -20% higher than winter wheat for grain yield. There is not a lot of data on winter wheat forage yields so it is not easy to compare on a forage basis but hybrid rye is a very high yielding forage crop - yielding 15 to 20 per cent higher than other spring cereal forage crops.

-Rye's allelopathic effect: Rye releases chemicals that negatively impact other plants that are competing for resources in the field. The positive on this is that it reduces weeds in the field. The negative is that you need to make sure the rye is fully terminated before seeding another crop after it in the field.

- Marketing grain: Winter wheat has a more established grain market for milling or feed than hybrid rye, but demand for hybrid rye is on the upswing and pricing is quite competitive.

- Seed Cost: Comparing the cost of treated hybrid rye seeded at .8 units per acre to the cost of treated winter wheat seed at seeded at 2.5 bu per acre, the cost per acre is higher on hybrid rye by approximately 25% depending on the year.

- Right to use farm saved seed: Hybrid rye seed can not be farm saved and reseeded. All farm production must be sold as forage or grain commercially. It is a "certified seed only" model. Winter wheat varieties, at the least the ones we are currently marketing, have no restrictions on farm saved seed use - other than Plant Breeders Rights (you can not sell the seed to others or do any breeding or genetic work with the varieties).

So those are a few considerations when trying to pick between winter wheat and hybrid rye.

Check out our fall crop varieties for sale here.