Fall-seeded winter grains help to eliminate many of the issues associated with spring planting. One of these issues is trying to plant in wet soil. Winter grains also provide cover to avoid soil erosion in the winter and spring.
Winter rye is the most common cover crop and animal forage. Hogs, in particular, can benefit from winter rye being added to their feed.
Winter rye is an especially productive cereal grain crop when grown at low temperatures, low fertility and in drought conditions. In fact, when fertilized, winter rye does well in most soil types. It also is used for pasture and forage and can be left to produce a grain crop after providing pasture. It should be noted, however, that too heavy a grazing of winter rye can reduce seed yield.
There are several additional advantages of planting winter rye. Since it matures early, it is likely to circumvent late summer droughts and fall frosts. Weed control costs can be greatly reduced or avoided all together because of its ability to compete with weeds. Finally, when managed correctly it can produce a commercial yield of as much as 60 bushels per acre.
Like all crops, the productivity of winter rye will greatly depend on the environment in which it is grown and the specific variety planted. Further, there some disadvantages of growing winter rye that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether or not winter rye is a good fit for an operation:
While winter rye has been shown to be more robust than winter wheat, its survival is not guaranteed.
It has been known to be weedy. Volunteer winter rye usually appears for two or three years after the crop has been grown.
Winter rye can fall victim to late spring frost. It also can be drastically reduced by drought stress at heading time.
When stored more than 12 months, seed germination drops quickly.
Winter rye is susceptible to ergot.
If you are interested in planting early spring crops, winter rye probably isn’t right for you since winter rye would be unlikely to winter kill and decay by spring. However, for warm weather crops that you won’t plant until the end of April or later, winter rye is an excellent choice.