US - Beef and dairy farmers in Ohio looking to take advantage of rye as a forage and cover crop should be drilling now to ensure establishment.
Over recent years, cereal rye or winter rye (Secale cereal L.) has become more popular, thanks to its multiple benefits to the farm, explains Eric Richer, Ohio State University Extension Educator.
New data from the north west of the state has highlighted the low cost and low effort benefits of rye as a spring feed source.
Mr Richer says that rye’s hardiness fits it in most cover crop programmes in the region, bridging the gap between silage corn being harvested and no-till soybean planting in the spring.
However, to avoid disappointment, growers should be looking at germination by 1 November after planting no later by 20 October.
Drilling ratios should be higher than for standard cover crops, Mr Richer says, adding that 85-115 pounds per acre should do the trick.
As for fertiliser, individuals can make specific choices, although Mr Richer prescribes a 50 pound per acre Nitrogen application to boost spring growth before ideally cutting in May.
This is optimum time for tonnage, palatability and quality and reduces concerns over soil water retention for the following crop.
Best results produce and then ensile a rye crop of 25-30 per cent dry matter, to then be covered like corn silage. Where rye differs however, is the overall feed value.
Mr Richer says: “While spring rye-lage will not have the same feed value as corn silage, producers can evaluate its cost per pound of gain to see if it may fit in their total mixed ration (TMR) feeding systems."
He adds that a good rye crop consists of 13 per cent crude protein, as shown by a feed analysis carried out on five farms.
Testing is carried out from the base of the plant to the full head, and consequently quality ranges can vary.
Nevertheless, Mr Richer says that cereal rye is a good option because, as a break crop, it recycles nutrients and loosens topsoil.
This is an added benefit to acres that would have otherwise been idle as soil health is built up and erosion reduced.
What’s more, Mr Richer concludes that soybean yields can realise ‘normal yields’ as a follower.
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