The word ‘rye’ typically stirs up conversations of cover crops and soil health. While equally important topics, rarely do the discussions carry on to questions of silage yield, harvest dates, forage quality, and double cropping potential. With the launch of KWS hybrid rye silage varieties, that is about to change. KWS is a plant breeding company founded in Germany in 1856 that has successfully been breeding rye hybrids for over 20 years. The United States saw the launch of their hybrid rye grain varieties three years ago, and this fall they are unveiling a silage variety that could change the way producers think about rye.
Hybrid rye is a winter cereal similar to triticale and winter wheat, that is planted from September 15 – October 15, depending on the region. Yield trials show approximately a 20% advantage in tonnage from hybrid rye silage when compared with other wheat and triticale varieties. In addition to a yield advantage, University of Wisconsin also noted that hybrid reached Feekes stage 10.1, or head emergence, 6 days earlier than triticale. This earlier maturity could be critical in a double cropping system; where a week during spring planting could mean the difference between success and failure for a crop. Additionally, this earlier harvest date could allow for diversified risk and workload management. Hybrid rye, when grown alongside other small grain silages, will allow producers to expand their harvesting time, ultimately allowing them to harvest more acres of silage per growing season.
Hybrid rye also offers flexibility in the time of harvest, yield, and quality. For producers needing a high digestibility, high crude protein silage the team at KWS recommends harvesting the silage at flag leaf. Maximum tonnage will not be achieved at this time point but cutting at flag leaf represents the peek combination of quality and quantity. Additionally, this earlier cutting time allows producers more days in the spring to implement a double cropping system. To achieve maximum tonnage hybrid rye should be harvested at Feekes stage 11.1 or when the kernel is milky ripe. At this stage, hybrid rye produces over 6 tons of dry matter; however, this comes with a lower crude protein and a higher lignin content.
Ultimately, hybrid rye provides opportunities for producers to turn idle acres into a viable forage source for their ruminant animals. Whether it is high-quality forage for dairy producers or maximum tonnage for feedlot producers, this novel crop offers a newfound flexibility for forage production. And don’t forget, hybrid rye is still a winter crop which offers soil cover, prevents erosion and nutrient leaching, and recycles nutrients. For more information contact the KWS hybrid rye team!