Harvesting fall-seeded rye as silage
- Recommended seeding rates are 90 to 112 pounds per acre and may be increased slightly if planting is delayed to improve seeding density. Later-planted rye will have reduced effectiveness for erosion control.
- Rye responds well to commercial application of N at 40 to 60 pounds per acre. If the source of N is manure or a previous legume crop, 80 pounds per acre may be the economic optimum.
- Fall planting date has a huge impact on subsequent spring forage yields. On average, rye planted by September 20 will yield a full ton of dry matter more than winter rye seeded near the end of October (see table below).
- Winter rye is an excellent cover crop and will help take up excess phosphorus. An estimated 18 pounds of P are removed from the soil for each ton of dry matter harvested.
- Rye does a nice job of reducing soil nitrate levels following fall-applied manure. Based on a fall manure application rate of 40 tons per acre, nitrate levels measured in the spring have been around 190 pounds per acre without rye and almost half that level or 100 pounds per acre when rye was fall planted and spring harvested.
- Subsequent crops of corn will likely experience a yield reduction according to work done at the University of Wisconsin research station in Arlington, Wis. Rye has an extensive root system and can zap soil moisture during a spring when moisture is short. In addition, spring harvest has the potential to delay follow-up corn planting, which can also reduce yields. Also, rye can be an attractive environment for armyworm moths, so producers should watch for that pest as well. Reduced corn yields averaged 13 bushels per acre over three years at Arlington. Subsequent crops of alfalfa or soybeans didn’t seem to respond negatively to spring-harvested rye.
Effect of planting date on rye forage yield in southern Wisconsin. While fall-seeded grasses such as rye are of particular interest following a season of reduced forage yields because of drought, flooding or winter kill, alfalfa remains the mainstay forage in the Midwest where we’re able to produce high quality and high yields of alfalfa haylage. But when forage supplies are tight, it’s good to know we have alternative sources of forage available. About the author: Jon Urness is the Vita Plus national forage specialist. He grew up on his family’s five-generation homestead dairy near Black Earth, Wis. and still lives there today. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism. Since 1992, Urness has provided on-farm dairy nutrition consulting in southwest Wisconsin as a Vita Plus employee owner. He has also taken on the forage marketing responsibilities outside of the traditional Vita Plus market.