Forage Identification: Rye

Department of Plant Sciences

Rye (Secale cereale L.)

Rye comes from Europe and is the most winter hardy of all the small grains. It is often grown as a winter cover crop. It is adapted to a wide range of soils, but requires moderate fertility and moisture. Rye is more tolerant of adverse soils conditions than most small grains. It tolerates drought, low pH, and low fertility. For best results well drained soils with a pH between 5.6 and 6.5.


Growth Habitat:
Rye generally overwinters in the tillering stage. It grows rapidly and vigorously from seed. Rye tends to be taller thank wheat.


Plant Characteristics:
This plant is a bunch type grass with many upright tillers. The leaves, like most small grains are rolled in the whorl. Flat leaf blades and dense flower spikes. Each large spike consists of many 2-flowered spikelets with long awns. Grain in relatively large. Rye has small or medium sized auricles which are not hairy. Leaf sheaths usually are hairy. Blue-green leaf color and leaves are less erect than other small grains. Seedlings sometimes are red tinted if stress.


Seed Characteristics:
Rye seed is very similar to wheat seed but is smaller and darker. The best time to seed winter rye is from August 15th to September 30th.


Important Identifying Characteristics:
Leaf color is blue-green. Rye has a hairy leaf sheath, while wheat does not.


Primary Uses:
Pasture or green manure.

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