Cereal Rye - The King of Fall

Cereal Rye - The King of Fall


Cereal rye is the simplest cover crop to get started with for a wide range of producers and is an all-around great option to plant in the fall. Here’s why:

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       As just a cover crop, cereal rye is anything, but boring. With spreading, fibrous roots cereal rye will create a web of tilthy soil as it sends root exudates out. This root system will keep your soil where you want it over the winter.

       No time to plant a cover crop after your cash crop? Yes, you do! Cereal rye is one of the latest planted options for fall. This characteristic paired with its ease of establishment makes it a simple option. The extremely reasonable price makes it a smart option.

       In the spring, your cereal rye will be the first to green up, making your lawn jealous. This early spring growth adds even more to the soil protection including erosion control, moisture maintenance, and weed suppression. Varying termination methods exist for cereal rye, but we recommend shallow tillage, chemical termination, or crimping (higher seeding needed).

       When in your rotation as a forage crop, similar benefits exist. Easy establishment and flexible planting time make it one of your least fussy forages. You can graze your cereal rye in the fall, but not too low so that it has to fight to thrive in the spring. Leaving growth over the winter will give you the earliest possible green-up when old man winter leaves.

       Once those shoots and leaves pop up, you have options of grazing and/or harvesting in the spring. When mechanically harvesting, a balance between highest forage quality and highest tonnage occurs; when one is higher, the other lowers. Harvested at earlier stages of development, your cereal rye forage will have its highest protein (20-25%) and digestibility. Harvested at later stages of development, you will achieve the maximum tonnage potential (3-4 DM tons/acre). The most balanced point of the two that we have found is right around boot stage of development and would have levels around the averages of this University of Wisconsin Chart:

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Cover crop = 50-80 lbs per acre

Forage = 80-100 lbs per acre


Your Cereal Rye’s Best Friends – when planted before Mid-September

Oats can be combined with for some growth in the fall to supplement fall grazing.

Brassicas will add soil building benefits by pulling up nutrients and forage quality during grazing with high-protein leaves.

Legumes will supply nitrogen fixing when planted early enough in the fall to develop nodules (Beginning of September). Legumes that overwinter will improve forage quality for grazing and mechanical harvest.


BONUS: All of these options will benefit the soil with their varying root systems!




Vernon Martin

Hey Amanda, I like your blog and the content, very interesting!