Farmers sing praises of hybrid rye

Morris, Man. — David Hamblin, an FP Genetics shareholder, has one Brasetto harvest under his belt. After getting hit with 25 percent hail damage in 2015, his 60-acre field still averaged 95 bushels per acre.

“We would have been well over 100 (bushels) if we hadn’t gotten the hail. I wish we’d had 1,000 acres of it,” says Hamblin, adding that he got $5.75 per bushel on his contract with Paterson Grain.

“I think these hybrid ryes have pretty good potential. People are starting to fall away from winter wheat due to higher spring wheat yields and better markets for spring wheat. Also, I’m not sure yet if the hardiness of winter wheat is as good as the new rye varieties.”

Hamblin says rye has typically not been grown in the Red River Valley. It’s usually on the lighter, less productive soils further west. He thinks the emerging trend will see growers treating rye with a little more respect.

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“We’re putting it on some of our more productive land and putting the inputs to it so we maximize the yield potential.

“The markets will have to develop along with this new production. End-use buyers will appreciate the characteristics of Brasetto and Bono. There’s a huge amount of European rye that gets shipped to the Minneapolis area. We can replace most of that European rye.

“We’re well positioned to supply that market if we can guarantee them a consistent supply of high quality product. We should be able to make that work. Winnipeg to Minneapolis is a lot shorter than Europe to Minneapolis.”

Oak Bluff, Man. — Ron Manness was also a first-time rye grower in 2015. He says his 90-acre field of Brasetto got off to a really bad start.

“It got off to a poor start the previous fall. It was a little thin in areas, so it wasn’t a great stand. I don’t think we reached the full potential at all,” recalls Manness.

“But it did pretty good once it got going. We got close to 90 bushels to the acre. And we contracted at $6 per bushel, so we were happy. We were wishing we’d put in 1,000 acres.”

Manness thinks the new hybrids have good potential. He says they’re more winter hardy than winter wheat and the yields appear to be better.

“You have to be a little more careful with harvest. They’re a little more susceptible to damage. And the straw is a little tougher than winter wheat. But those are minor issues.

“The major issue is that the crop is more susceptible to ergot, but they’re breeding some new ergot-resistant varieties. It wouldn’t take a really big improvement and we’d be fine.”

Manness says rye harvest is generally early August, so conditions should be pretty dry. They did get rain on it last August, but didn’t see any problem with seeds germinating. It wasn’t excessive rain, so he can’t comment yet on how it behaves when the grain gets really wet. He says it’s interesting that farmers are taking the new hybrids seriously and putting them on good land.

“Rye used to be considered… I don’t know the best way to say it…. I guess you’d call it a poor farmers crop. If you had some poor land, usually sandy light soil, that’s where you’d grow rye.

“I think that mentality is changing. It’s taking over from winter wheat because of prices and winter hardiness. Crop insurance is the other reason guys are getting out of winter wheat.”

He explains that winter wheat coverage changed about three years ago so now it only covers the re-seeding benefit. That means a producer risks quite a bit more when planting winter wheat.

“But there are still farmers who want some kind of fall-seeded crop, just because it makes good sense.”

He thinks fall-seeded crops spread out the work load somewhat and make better use of machinery, just as long as a guy can manage seeding and harvest at the same time. He says the recommendation of 25 percent fall-seeded crop is too high for most producers to handle, whether it’s winter wheat or fall rye. Mannass has Brasetto in the ground right now, plus 30 acres of Bono.

Contact Hamblin at 204-746-4779 or Manness at 204-736-4001.

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