As a cover crop, cereal rye brings a lot to the table. It improves soil structure, builds organic matter, and protects against water and wind erosion. It’s also relatively inexpensive, can be seeded late, enhances weed control and is easy to kill.
That makes it a nice fit for cash crop producers looking for a cover crop to seed after corn or soybean harvest, says Jake Munroe, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soil fertility specialist. The only significant challenge cereal rye poses is determining when to terminate the crop when planting soys.
On this episode of the RealAgriculture Soybean School, Munroe notes growers really need to give cereal rye an opportunity to grow in the spring if they want to realize the benefits of the biomass and root system it creates. But if rye termination is delayed, will soybean yield be reduced? The answer to that question is no, based on research conducted by Munroe and his OMAFRA colleagues over the past two years.
Across 10 site locations, the researchers compared yields in plots with two different rye management strategies — termination two weeks prior to planting (52.9 bu/ac) and termination at planting (51.5 bu/ac). The researchers, however, have noted several key management practices that will help grower soybean yields align with their research findings.
Munroe says when planting green into rye, consider a higher seeding rate (e.g. 160,000 seeds/acre minimum) to minimize yield lag due to a thin soybean stand. Growers also need to pay close attention to seeding depth, since rye can create drier soil conditions. When seeding into thick rye, ensure good slot closure and consider the impact of delayed soybean maturity on harvest timing, especially if you plan to seed winter wheat after soybeans.
Finally, Munroe says growers need to be flexible – if conditions turn dry in May, consider early termination.
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Check out the full research at Field Crop News.