Also known as cereal rye, Winter Rye is a cool-season cover crop that is very cold tolerant and can persist throughout the winter, even in areas with snowfall. It is one of the best cool-weather cover crops for restoring depleted or sandy soils. It has the ability to scavenge excess nitrogen from soils and store that nitrogen for use in spring with the successive crop planting. Studies have shown that it is able to sequester as much as 100 lbs of nitrogen per acre. Reports have also demonstrated that it is able to capture potassium from deeper soil layers, adding it to the upper soil layers and making it available to plants.
Winter Rye works great for erosion control, moisture retention, and adding organic matter to depleted soils. It has a fibrous root system that can hold significant amounts of water and snowfall, which reduces runoff during heavy rainfall and limits soil erosion as a result. This is especially important in sloped areas that may be more prone to erosion. When cut and incorporated into soils, it can add a significant amount of organic matter to replenish and condition soils.
Because it is very cold-tolerant, Winter Rye can be planted later in fall than most cool-weather cover crops. It can be planted with a broadcast spreader or a drop spreader, but will not plant well in a walk-behind seeder due to the shape of the seed. As with all cover crops, it should be mowed or cut before going to seed. This will prevent any issues with the crop reseeding and becoming a weed problem in the future. Winter Rye may also be crimped or rolled to provide a soil mat as a weed suppression barrier. A silage tarp is another good option for terminating this cover crop.
Winter Rye Planting Information:
Planting Depth: 3/4″
Seeding Rate: 2.5 lb per 1,000 sq. ft.
Cover Crop Recommendation Chart