Are you looking to move beyond your typical corn/soybean rotation and implement a cover crop? Consider planting hybrid rye.
Never heard of it?
Neither had we. It’s actually different than the cereal rye that many of us are used to. It’s grown as a winter crop that is harvested the following summer. It’s already widely used Scandinavia. Trials by the University of Minnesota at several different locations show recent yields have ranged from 105 to 143 bushels an acre- with plenty of room for improvement. European operations yield a third more. It’s also versatile. You can grow it and use it for feed for hogs and dairy, market to distilleries, sell for ethanol, or sell for cereal grain for human consumption. Why not give it a shot? Below are 5 unbelievable benefits.
1. Healthy Soil
You’ve probably heard a lot already about the benefits of cover crops. If you’re willing to take the extra time to manage them, willing to experiment, and are persistent- planting covers is highly beneficial for your soil. When you introduce small grains like hybrid rye into corn/soybean rotations, you break up weed and disease cycles. Over time you’ll be able to reduce herbicide use. With something growing all the time in your fields, erosion will be reduced.
Cover crops are the most effective way to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous losses. The deep root system of hybrid rye captures excess nitrogen and keeps it from reaching ground water or running off. Those nutrients are preserved, and then become available in residual biomass for the next crop. Overall, you’ll reduce fertilizer costs and spread work out over the entire year.
2. Healthiest Grain
Hybrid rye is high in dietary fiber content, which makes it healthy for people as well as livestock. The fiber fills pigs up, and the probiotic profile is beneficial for their digestion. Producers that use it for feed have found that fewer antibiotics are necessary and the overall health of their animals has improved. Hybrid rye has the same amino acid composition as corn, and a similar protein content. The starch is different though, and that’s what makes it so healthy and beneficial for consumption.
Claus Nymand is a hybrid rye product manager for KWS Cereals in the U.S. and Canada, and is optimistic about the future of hybrid rye in the Midwest.
“My hope here is to have the feed industry understand the potential and the benefits to using hybrid rye in hog and dairy rations within the next five years, and to build the infrastructure within the grain industry to store hybrid rye and have a stable supply. If we can align a demand from hog producers with a supply from row crop farmers, there’s a great potential for hybrid rye production in the Midwest.”
3. Easy to Manage
Lynn Betts of Corn & Soybean Digest delves into the details of this relatively new cover crop. Prospects are promising. Hybrid rye is a high yielding crop with low inputs. It’s planted in the fall, after a corn/soybean crop is harvested, and grown through the winter and spring. It’s till or no-till, and isn’t typically seeded by airplanes. Recommended seeding is no deeper than 0.8 of an inch. Nymand advises:
“Be as precise as you would with planting corn and soybeans—we don’t talk in terms of pounds per acre of seed, it’s sold in units of 1 million viable seeds—seeding rates are recommended between .6 and .8 units per acre depending on seeding time and conditions. Hybrid rye needs N, P, and K, too—but hybrid rye has a big root system that uses 20% less water and takes 20% less fertilizer than winter wheat at the same expected yield level. We have a chart for nitrogen amounts according to expected yield.”
Hybrid rye is now available from two dealers- Albert Lea Seeds (MN) and Yankton Seeds (SD).
4. Get a Break on Crop Insurance
Wallace Farmer reports that Iowa growers can get a price break on crop insurance by planting cover crops. As long as you’re not already receiving state or federal cost share incentives, the two year old program offers $5/acre premium reduction on crop insurance. Farmers that plant covers this fall are eligible for the premium reduction starting in 2019.
Farmers and landowners interested in certifying eligible land in the program can apply online here. Applications will be taken until January 15. Farmers are encouraged to apply once their cover crops have been seeded.
5. Consumer Driven
Get out ahead of the curve. More and more consumers want foods grown in healthier soils with less use of chemicals. That is how hybrid rye became more widely used in Europe. People there pushed for it because of the environmental benefits. It’s true, getting cover crops right can take some time. But it’s quickly shifting from a growing trend to a regular practice. Think long term.
If you haven’t yet planted covers, it might be time to start thinking about it. Cover crops have numerous environmental benefits that more and more consumers want. They’re also great for the soil. Hybrid rye is a cover that’s had a lot of success in Europe, which could translate well to the Midwest. It’s an extremely healthy grain that has high yields and low inputs. And if you’re an Iowa farmer, you can even get a reduction on your crop insurance for planting a cover crop.
So, why NOT try hybrid rye?