At 10t/ha hybrid rye out-does wheat
Interest in hybrid rye grain is soaring thanks to the emergence of rye as a whisky with serious appeal and recognition that it is more than just a good source of fibre for inclusion in pig rations. This demand has seen it move from ‘another AD crop’, to a mainstream cereal. It is its performance on farm however, that is capturing the interest of growers.
Annoyed by the under-performance of winter malting barley, David Lord decided to investigate hybrid rye after a discussion with a neighbour. It’s now four years later and the area grown has expanded to 40 hectares as demand has increased.
It was the low water requirement – at 300 litres per tonne of grain produced its moisture needs are typically 25% lower than that of wheat or barley – and early maturity that appealed in the first instance.
“I was looking for a crop to fit the light land rotation of potatoes, wheat, peas/onions, and wheat. Rye had good drought tolerance and the straw is useful for the cattle enterprise though we are careful to follow it with potatoes to replace the phosphate taken off (with the straw) and control the volunteers.
“We budget for yields of about 8.5t/ha, but it often exceeds this. In good years it does 10t/ha or more and as our contract sees us paid the same as feed wheat it often produces a better gross margin because it is cheaper to grow,” he says.
It has since become an established crop and his 350-400 tonnes annual production is sold locally to a specialist food ingredients business.
“It does better than wheat on the same ground and is earlier to mature, but later than oilseed rape, so helps ensure a smooth harvest,” he says.
Ergot is the curse of rye, but since moving to a fully hybrid variety this has become less of a concern.
“We moved to KWS Bono a few years ago partly for the higher yield potential, but also because the higher quantities of pollen these PollenPlus varieties produce means there is a far lower risk of ergot infection occurring,” he says.
“It’s not completely risk-free, but with milling wheat on the farm too we need to be proactive and PollenPlus varieties have helped greatly.”
Sowing is much the same as any other cereal and Mr Lord will either drill it conventionally after cultivations or direct into stubble depending on the workload at the time, the field and weed burden to be considered.
“It’s certainly easy to grow. We sow it in early October, normally apply two fungicides, though it has had only one in 2019, as mildew and brown rust are the main disease pressures, and a single application of Chlormequat to keep it from lodging. About 150 kg N/ha is applied in two splits and that’s it.
“It matures evenly which makes combining easy and stores better in bins as it doesn’t heap that well. This suits the customer as they can take it as and when they need it,” he says.