Hybrid rye varieties may offer new feeding opportunities

“They’re not your grandfather’s rye,” said Herman Wehrle, director of commercialization for FP Genetics in Regina. | File photo

New hybrid fall ryes on the market are outshining older varieties in every way, says the director of commercialization for FP Genetics in Regina.

“They’re not your grandfather’s rye,” said Herman Wehrle.

“The exciting thing about this is the new technology that’s bringing in higher yields and improved quality, which is definitely a game changer from how people used to view open pollinated technology,” he said.

“Generally speaking, when people think about rye from 20 years ago, they don’t think about it as a very nutritious product. Part of it was the technology and part was how we were actually working with that technology.”

Wehrle spoke about hybrid rye in livestock feeding systems during Ag in Motion’s Livestock Days, held at the Discovery Farm site near Langham, Sask., Aug. 20-21.

“We expect now with moving from these older open pollinated varieties, we will be able to really get into the whole livestock feeding sector, which we hadn’t been able to get there because the yields weren’t high enough. The quality wasn’t good enough so farmers would then go to other options,” he said.

Value and flexibility are key attributes.

“With this new hybrid technology, we’re increasing yields in rye of anywhere from 25 to 35 percent, which is a very significant increase. (It) really takes rye from one of the least profitable crops to one of the most profitable,” Wehrle said.

Quality has also been enhanced, he said.

“The quality that we’re seeing in the grain and forage is showing significantly superior to the quality that we would expect to see in rye generally and certainly will rival the quality that we’re seeing in products like wheat, barley and oats.”

The hybrid also has higher pollen output for better plant fertilization, which limits opportunity for ergot infection, Wehrle said.

For livestock producers, hybrid fall rye can offer feedgrain, forage and grazing options. When planted in mid-summer, it can be grazed in October. Late summer or early fall seeding can allow grazing in spring, about two weeks earlier than other forage types can be grazed.

Wehrle said feed digestibility and nutrition are high in rye that is grazed in late fall or early spring.

In a silage or greenfeed scenario, the crop can be grown to the flag leaf stage for concentrated nutritive value or harvested at milk stage when yields are higher.

“At the early cut, which is at the flag leaf boot stage, we still have very high digestibility. It’s not as high as grazing, but still in that 75 to 80 percent.”

Beef producers generally harvest at the milky dough stage that still has 68 to 70 percent digestibility, similar to wheat, barley, and oats, said Wehrle. Protein is lower at seven to nine percent and yields are three to 5.5 tonnes per acre.

“It can be cut and put up for silage at this stage, or cut in a swath, dried down and baled for greenfeed,” he said.

Growers also have the option of harvesting the crop for grain. It can be combined one to two weeks sooner than other cereals.

As part of a rotation, hybrid fall rye gives farmers more options for weed and disease control and it can help reduce soil erosion when serving as a cover crop.

“With hybrid fall rye we’re still learning how to use this for the various areas and uses, but there’s no question this product really does provide flexibility for growers to do some different things,” Wehrle said.

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