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Cover Crops: Winter Cereal Rye

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Growers may know that cover crops benefit the soil and agricultural operations, but do they know the benefits of each species? Each month a different cover crop species will be highlighted to provide producers with the information needed to successfully grow cover crops or alternative forages.

Up close view of field filled with winter cereal rye cover crops
Winter Cereal Rye Cover Crop


  • Depending on weather conditions, rye will continue to grow until temperatures reach near freezing

  • Rye will resume growth in the spring and must be terminated via chemical or mechanical means

  • The rye should be completely brown and brittle before any planting occurs due to the risk of allelopathic effects

  • Should be planted at least one bushel/acre but rate can be adjusted based on intended use and seeding method


  • Cool season, annual grass which originated in southwest Asia

  • Commonly used for grain production but can be used as an alternative forage and a cover crop

  • Suitable for northern climates; will overwinter and grow into spring before termination


Winter Cereal Rye reduces soil erosion, suppresses weeds due to large amounts of biomass, and scavenges for nutrients.


Large amounts of biomass and early growth make it excellent for spring grazing. Can also be used for dry hay forage or for silage. To balance yield & quality, rye should be harvested in the boot stage or just before the emergence of the seed head.

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