Winter Cereal Rye

One of the most popular cover crops is winter cereal rye.   It is a very versatile cover crop that has few disadvantages.  While it does not have the deep, nor fibrous root system that annual ryegrass has, it reportedly has had 45″ deep roots found in north-central Indiana in May.  Winter cereal rye can be planted later in the fall than other cover crops and still have an excellent stand the next spring.

Advantages of Winter Cereal Rye:

  • Excellent winterhardiness
  • Very good for erosion control
  • Good root depth
  • Can be planted later than other cover crops
  • Makes very good haylage
  • Early maturing so following crop can be planted earlier
  • Assists in weed control for subsequent crop
  • Good scavenger of nutrients
  • Very good for aerial application
  • Very good for winter and spring grazing
  • Makes very good “green manure” if plowed in
  • Mixes well with oats and turnips

Disadvantages of Winter Cereal Rye:

  • Potential for alleopathy issues with following crop (not likely)
  • Not the top choice for erosion control or rooting depth
  • Spring growth can “get out of control” if not killed early
  • Not much fall growth for forage
  • Not the top choice for forage quality

To view a video on Cereal Rye and Radishes watch below!

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11 Responses to Winter Cereal Rye

  1. Tom Kaspar August 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    What do you think?

    While it (rye) does not have the deep, nor fibrous root system that annual ryegrass has, it reportedly has had 45″ deep roots found in north-central Indiana in May.


    Where does the above statement come from? That is, that cereal rye does not have the deep fibrous root system that annual ryegrass has? Has anyone made a direct comparison?

    I have not made a direct comparison, but I measure rye rooting depth almost every year and we regularly see roots down to 100 cm (40 “) and often to 120 cm (48”). And that is planting after corn or soybean harvest.

    So I sort of find it hard to believe that ryegrass would be deeper, have a greater root mass, would be better for preventing erosoin, etc.

    Not that I have anything against planting ryegrass. I would be happy for any cover crop.

    Tom Kaspar

  2. Gary Grubb September 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    can redclover be successfully broadcast early spring, soon as snow gone, establish and grow into a summer crop if Rye crop taken off for silage at the end of May in south western Ontario ???

  3. Dave September 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Gary, That sure should work. Many, many acres of red clover seed is “frost seeded” into wheat in the Thumb of Michigan (and in other states too) with great success annually. The Rye will come off earlier than wheat therefore opening the canopy sooner which should cause the clover to grow more quickly. See to get a good idea of what is possible. I would recommend using coated and pre-inoculated clover seed for the best results. I’d feel quite confident even at a seeding rate of up to 2 bu./acre that you should get a good stand of the clover.

  4. curt February 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    At what time or stage do you mow and bale cereal rye and still plant soybeans
    after that ?

  5. Dave February 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    To get the best forage quality and tonnage you should cut the cereal rye at “boot” stage just before it heads out. If weather conditions look like you will be kept out of the field for awhile then cut it earlier than that so the rye does not shoot seed heads and become “woody”. Planting the soybeans in as quickly thereafter should give you the best opportunity for top soybean yields!

  6. Dick April 14, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    When is the best time to kill rye if notilling corn into it? Same question for soybeans. Defiance County northwest Ohio

  7. Dave May 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Dick, when the Rye is 8-15″ tall is best for corn…making sure it has broken dormancy. On soybeans it is the same as corn all the way until “boot” stage. The earlier the better unless you plant into the rye then kill it. Check on crop insurance regulations before doing that though.

  8. Dick July 28, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    If I wait to kill the rye after I plant beans is mowing with a spinner mower as good at killing it as round up ? Or rolling it with a cultipacker or cultimulcher?

  9. Dave July 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Dick, You’ll sure have plenty of fodder to mow through! If not spraying I’d consider a roller/crimper. Crimping will be very important to assure that the rye does not come back. Dave

  10. chuck crutcher August 26, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    What’s the seeding depth for cereal rye?

  11. Dave August 27, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Chuck, In most instances people plant Rye like they would wheat, so 1-1 1/2″ deep. However, Rye can be flown on into corn and soybeans and we still get a good stand. Drilling almost always gives a more uniform stand.