Rye - Production and Management

Variety Information

Performance Testing

Variety performance, acreage, seeding date, and crop rotation affects on yield.



To prevent seed and seedling rots/blight and smuts, seed should be treated with a fungicide.


Fall rye - August 25 to September 25.
Spring rye - May 1 to May 30.


0.75 to 1.5 bu/acre to achieve a plant population of 24 plants/ft 2 . High seeding rates should be used with large seed size, poor germination, weed competition, and poor seed bed conditions.

To achieve a plant population of 24 plants/ft2, see How to calculate optimum seeding rates using plant population.

Seeding Depth

1 to 2 inches. Do not plant rye deeper than necessary to ensure contact with moist soil. Deeper seeding may result in decreased emergence and weak plants, causing severe winter kill in fall-seeded varieties.

Fertilizer Recommendations

For specific recommendations, have your soil tested. If soil analyses are not available, a general recommendation is as follows:


Nitrogen (N):
Apply 0-20 lb/acre N following fallow or legume breaking, 20-40 lb/acre N following grasses and grass-legume breaking and 40-60 lb/acre N following stubble. Broadcast ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) in the spring, as soon as field conditions allow machinery to travel. Delayed applications result in reduced yield. Broadcasting nitrogen fertilizers such as urea (46-0-0) or urea-ammonium nitrate solution may result in reduced yield due to losses of N through volatilization, especially under warm dry conditions. The primary nitrogen deficiency symptom is leaf yellowing, starting with the older leaves.
Phosphate (P2O5):
Apply phosphate at 30-40 lb/acre. The primary phosphorus deficiency symptom is leaf purpling/browning, starting at the tips of older leaves on the seedling.
Potassium (K2O):
On sandy-textured or organic soils, apply potassium at rates of 15-30 lb/acre potash in a sideband or 30-60 lb/acre broadcast. Where required, potassium should be placed with the seed. Deficiency symptoms are difficult to detect, but include short internodes and weak stems.
Sulphur (S):
Usually not limiting for rye production. Soils low in organic matter may be deficient in sulphur.


Weed Control

Rye, particularly fall rye, is a competitive crop that can choke out many weeds. Depending on the relative time of emergence with weeds and the weed density, herbicides may not be necessary, which increases net returns.

Control of winter annual weeds such as stinkweed, shepherd’s purse, flixweed and narrow leaved hawk’s beard is particularly important in fall rye. Best control of winter annual weeds with herbicides is achieved in the fall after the weeds have germinated and immediately before freeze-up. They may also be treated the following spring, but must be sprayed before the weeds bolt, which occurs in late April or early May.


Weeds that cannot be cleaned out of rye and therefore are considered foreign matter causing downgrading are: cow cockle, ragweed, tartary buckwheat, vetch, wild oats, cereal grains, and non-cereal domestic grains such as peas, corn, domestic buckwheat, lentils.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection


Grasshoppers, aphids, cutworms and armyworms can damage rye.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection

Plant Diseases

Seed Rot And Seedling Blights

Rye seed should be treated with a suitable fungicide to reduce seed rot, seedling blights and smut.


Rye is an open pollinated crop, and is therefore more susceptible to ergot than other cereal crops. Rotate with a non-susceptible crop for one year to reduce incidence. Cultivate fields following harvest to bury ergot bodies to a depth of at least two inches, and mow grass headlands and roadsides before heading to reduce spread. If the seed source is known to contain ergot bodies, storage for more than one year will reduce their viability to almost zero. Levels of ergot bodies in the harvested grain above 0.1% may be toxic in livestock feed.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection



Fall rye should be swathed at 40-45% moisture content, or shattering may become a problem during swathing and combining. Straight combining can be done, if crop is uniform. Straight-cutting Hybrid fall rye has been more successful than straight-cutting open-pollinated fall rye. The issue with straight-cutting is shattering losses and resulting volunteer growth in the succeeding crop.


Rye kernels with a moisture content of 14% can be safely combined without the need for drying. Rye is generally stored under 13.5% moistures. Harvesting at moisture levels slightly higher can reduce losses due to grain quality issues. It is not advised to harvest over 18% moisture as it can results in reduced quality and issues with falling number.

Rye threshes very easily. When combining, use lower cylinder speeds and manage concaves to minimize cracking, broken or peeled kernels, expecially under dry threshing conditions.

Preharvest glyphosate applications is not registered in fall rye and could affect marketability of the crop.


Moulds and mites tend to be inactive when storage moisture is below 13%. If storage temperatures are below 8°C, 3°C and -8°C, insects, moulds and mites, respectively, are inactive.

See these additional articles for information on grain storage: