Monday, November 13, 2006 - 3:00 PM

Breeding Rye as a Cover Crop in the Upper Midwest.

Michael B. Kantar, Paul M. Porter, and Deborah Allan. Univ of Minnesota, 411 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108

In Minnesota there are different practices regarding the use of rye as a cover crop.  Cover cropping has become an increasing important part of the cropping system.  The use of rye as a cover crop has been growing in Minnesota with approximately 60,000 acres in rye, but there is still significant room for expansion.  Rye is used successfully in both organic and conventional systems. It is used in rotations with soybean, corn, potato, canning crops, and sugar beet. Growers use rye for many different reasons including erosion control, weed control, disease management, as forage, to increase soil organic matter, and to install more diversity (time, space, growth form, phenology) into their current rotations.  Seeding methods and planting date differ depending on the rotation into which the rye is planted.  Aerial seeding is a promising method of seeding that is being adopted in some parts of Minnesota.  Aerial seeding can be done with either airplanes or helicopters without the need for specialized equipment.  Aerial seeding allows fields to be sown earlier in the fall to ensure more growth.  Also, this allows for more versatile use of the rye and maximizes the benefit of the rye cover.  A rye growth model (RyeGro), which focuses on early season nutrient uptake, biomass accumulation and soil water balance, documents the importance of having an extended growing period for this cover crop.  To date, breeding and selection efforts with rye have not focused on its use as a cover crop.  Attention to traits such as early seedling vigor, fast biomass accumulation and canopy closure, and earliness to anthesis may increase the usefulness of rye as a cover crop.