Common Winter Rye

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Secale cereale  Approximately 100 seeds per pack. Germination ~ 90% March 2021

Rye, ryegrain or cereal rye is a cereal grain and should not be confused with ryegrass (which is used for lawns, pasture and hay for livestock). The hardiest of cereals, rye can be seeded later in fall than other cover crops and still provide considerable dry matter, an extensive soil-holding root system, significant reduction of nitrate leaching and exceptional weed suppression. Taller and quicker-growing than wheat, rye can serve as a windbreak and trap snow or hold rainfall over winter. It overseeds readily into many high-value and agronomic crops and resumes growth quickly in spring, allowing timely killing by rolling or mowing. Pair rye with a winter annual legume such as hairy vetch or winter peas to offset rye’s tendency to tie up soil nitrogen in spring. Fall-planted rye shows fast growth. By the summer solstice, plants reach their maximum height of about a 4’ (120 cm) while spring-planted wheat has only recently germinated.

A Maryland study credited rye with holding 60 percent of the residual nitrogen that could have leached from a silt loam soil following intentionally over-fertilized corn. A Georgia study estimated rye captured from 69 to 100 percent of the residual nitrogen after a corn crop. Rye also increases the concentration of exchangeable potassium near the soil surface by bringing it up from lower in the soil profile. In most regions, rye can serve as an over-wintering cover crop

Rye also works well as a strip cover crop and windbreak within vegetables or fruit crops and as a quick cover for rotation gaps or if another crop fails. You can over-seed rye into vegetables and tasseling or silking corn with consistently good results. You also can over-seed rye into brassicas, into soybeans just before leaf drop, or between pecan or other tree rows. Rye is one of the best cool season cover crops for out competing weeds, especially small-seeded, light-sensitive annuals such as lambs quarters, redroot pigweed, velvetleaf, chickweed and foxtail. Rye also suppresses many weeds allelopathically (by chemical exudates from its roots), including dandelions and Canada thistle.

Rye reduced total weed density an average of 78% when rye residue covered more than 90 percent of soil in a Maryland no-till study, and by 99% in a California study. Rye bread, including pumpernickel and Jewish rye, is a widely eaten food in Northern and Eastern Europe and in European and Jewish ethnic communities in North America. Rye is also used to make Scandinavian crisp bread. Rye flour has a lower gluten content than wheat flour.