Advantages of growing fall (winter) rye:
- Grows well on light, sandy, erosion-prone land although it does respond to better land and good fertility. It has good drought tolerance.
- Straw decomposes more slowly than other cereal straw, further contributing to holding soil prone to erosion. Its extensive rooting system also contributes a large amount of organic matter.
- Is much less subject to winter kill than winter wheat, although winter damage can still occur, even in southern Alberta.
- Allows a spread in labor and machinery use since it reduces the spring workload and permits earlier grain harvest.
- Makes use of late summer, fall and early spring moisture that might be in short supply for spring- sown crops.
- One planting can be used for spring to fall grazing and early spring pasture, then left for grain harvest that summer. However, winter kill and grain yield reduction are to be expected with such a system.
- As fall rye matures early, it may avoid late summer drought and fall frost.
- Weed control costs are reduced and often eliminated because of fall rye’s excellent ability to compete.
- Fall rye out-yields spring-sown rye by about 35 per cent. Commercial yields of 50 to 60 bushels per acre have been reported under good management.
Disadvantages of growing fall (winter) rye:
- Even though fall rye is hardier than winter wheat, its winter survival cannot be guaranteed.
- Fall rye has a limited market and market potential and usually a low grain price.
- It has a weedy nature. Volunteer fall rye will usually appear for two to three years after a crop has been grown.
- Heads in June when the occasional late spring frost may cause damage to the head and reduce yields. Rye yield can be severely reduced by drought stress at heading time, which occurs quite often in southern Alberta.
- Seed germination drops rapidly when fall rye is stored longer than a year.
- Very susceptible to ergot, which is very toxic to man and animal. Rye’s susceptibility to ergot provides a high inoculum level for cereal crops that follow it.
for the complete online & PDF factsheet on the Alberta Agriculture & Food website