Rye is a Good Cover Crop, But …

Jan 24, 2024

rye as a cover crop needs to be managed well to restore nitrogen
Cereal rye has long been considered one of the better cover crop options; it offers multiple advantages for the soil and crop to follow. But, “it needs to be killed off 1-2 weeks before planting,” said Kevin Carlson, Federated’s agronomy sales manager.
That may be a longer window before planting than most consider necessary, but rye uses the nitrogen (N) your crop needs. Without killing off the rye – and putting down N early – you may be losing 10-30 bu./ac. in yield!
“The cereal rye will compete with next year’s corn crop,” said Carlson. It’s grass competing with grass, so there is no positive rotation effect (as there would be from soybeans).
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) and various government programs push growers to plant a cover crop, and that’s not bad. “But they don’t talk about the penalty you are going to pay in N loss and competition with the corn crop,” he said.
“Multiple reports from state university research verify this fact,” said Carlson. Talk to your Federated Agronomist to see the data.
You can employ recommended conservation and sustainability measures and still protect your yields. Burn down the cereal rye early, apply pre-plant N, and side dress N early on. “Make sure your corn crop never has a bad day,” said Carlson.

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