Hybrid rye is bred to produce high-yielding rye cereal grain and forage with low incidences of ergot, thanks to its trait of shedding pollen within a short period of time. Research shows it is effective for weed suppression, nutrient scavenging, and as an animal feed ration component. Here are some tips for planting and managing hybrid rye.

Planting Time:Plant during September in southern Minnesota for best tillering and grain yields when soil temperatures at seeding depth are below 59° F. (You can plant into early October, but you may experience grain-yield decline.)

For areas farther south, plant in September through mid October.

Planting Rate: Planting rate varies with planting date. Earlier plantings results in greater tillering, so they can be seeded at lower rates. Planting at rates too high will decrease the numbers of tillers that form. Farmers should calibrate their drills or any other seeding tool to deliver the optimum suggested seeds per acre, per square foot, or per lineal foot of row (see Tables 1 & 2). You can use less precise calibration by taking the total number of pounds of seed and dividing it by the planned planted acres. Then choose the machinery manufacturer’s setting to deliver that weight of seed per acre. Check acres planted with the first box load of the drill, Brillion, or broadcast seeder to check the accuracy of the setting.

Table 1. Hybrid rye seeding rates by seeding dates in the Upper Midwest.       

Planting window
Sept. 1 – 15 Sept. 15 – Oct. 15
All KWS hybrid ryes Planting rate
Seeds/A Seeds/ft2 ALSeed Units/A Seed/A Seeds/ft2 ALSeed Units/A
600,000 13.8 1.2 800,000 18.4 1.6

Table 2. Average number of seeds per foot of row for different drill row spacings and plant seeding rates per acre.

Drill row width Seeds per unit area
600,000/A (equal to) 13.8 seeds/ft2 800,000/A (equal to) 18.4 seeds/ft2
Seeds per linear foot of row
6.5 “ 7.5 9.9
7.0 “ 8.0 10.7
7.5” 8.6 11.5

Planting Depth: Seed at 0.75 to0.8 inch deep.

Plant Growth: Hybrid rye produces 8 to 20 tillers per plant. Each tiller represents a potential head of rye the following spring. Spring tillers can also produce viable seed heads, but are much less desirable than fall tillers, as they may set heads and pollinate later than the majority of the tillers, increasing their exposure to ergot spores. The goal is to get rye planted early, evenly, and at an optimum population to allow maximum fall tillering. With a uniform, dense stand of rye in the spring, few spring tillers will form.

Pollination and Ergot: A field of hybrid rye sheds pollen in a very short period of time – in a matter of hours. You may even notice a “dust cloud” of pollen over the field during pollen shed. In addition, the KWS hybrids we feature at Albert Lea Seed are Pollen Plus varieties, which produce more pollen than open-pollinated varieties. Why is this significant? It’s all about ergot infection. Once rye flowers are pollinated, they close immediately and are no longer susceptible to ergot spores.

Spring tillers are prone to head and shed pollen later than fall-formed tillers, which means that spring tillers increase the potential for ergot exposure in the entire rye stand. Even a small number of the black ergot sclerotia in a field can contaminate the harvested grain, making it unsuitable for food or feed. The goal should be to plant hybrid early, evenly, and at an optimum population to allow for maximum fall tillering. With a uniform, dense stand of rye in the spring, few spring tillers will form.

Fertility needs: Hybrid Rye pH, N, P and K Requirements

  • pH: Hybrid rye tolerates a range of pH – from 5.5 up to 7.5.
  • Phosphorus and Potassium: Crop removal rates for a bushel of rye grain are somewhat lower for phosphorus (P) and comparable for potassium (K) to removal rates per bushel of winter wheat. Because hybrid rye yields are higher than those for wheat, total P and K requirements per acre will be greater for hybrid rye. Rye grain removes 0.187 pounds of P and 0.256 pounds of K per bushel of yield (https://plants.usda.gov/npk/NutrientReport).  Additional K is recommended, however, to support the vegetative growth of the crop. We suggest P and K rates of 20 pounds per acre of P and 40-50 pounds per acre of K. Rates should be increased for soils testing lower than in the optimal range.
  • Nitrogen: Nitrogen (N) requirement is 1.12 pounds per bushel of hybrid rye grain. Account for N credit from previous N-fixing crops and manure applications. Before calculating additional N fertility needs, apply N credits for soybeans, forage, and cover crop legumes and manure as you would before corn. For forage yield, apply 100-120 pounds per acre of total N to ensure both high protein and high forage yield. Apply 20-30 pounds of N per acre in the fall, with the remainder applied in the spring while the rye is still vegetative and before stem elongation begins. If you’re spreading manure, apply it all in the fall to make the nitrogen available both in the fall and in very early spring.


Variety Selection:  Albert Lea Seed carries two grain-type hybrids (Bono and Brasetto) and one forage-type hybrid (Progas). The grain types, however, may also be harvested for silage or hay or may be grazed.

Table 3. Grain yield performance in the upper Midwest for hybrid and selected open-pollinated rye varieties.

2017 2018
U. Minn.* North Dakota State U.** North Dakota State U. U. Wisc.***
Variety Lamberton, Le Center, St. Paul, Kimball, Crookston Wishek

(s. central)




(west central)


(s. central)

conventional convent. convent. organic convent. convent.



(over 4 sites)

3 yr. ave.

(over 5 sites)



no multi-yr data Hrvst



3 yr. ave. Hrvst



2 yr ave. Hrvst



3 yr ave. Harvested 7/18/2018
Hybrids Best use bu/A
Bono grain 125.5 104.9 —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– 120 bc
Brasetto grain 116.2 93.7 33.4 —– 97.8 —– 85.5 84.0 58.8 —– 122 ab
Progas forage —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —–
Propower forage —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —–
BInntto grain —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– 126 ab
Daniello grain/forage —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– 112 c
Doloro grain —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– 130 a
Serafino grain —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– 123 ab****
ND Dylan grain, cover crop 71.7 —– 24.0 —– 74.5 74.7 71.3 73.0 60.2 62.5 —–
Hazlet grain, cover crop 88.2 70.1 24.6 —– 84.9 —– 76.0 77.6 55.1 58.1 —–
Aroostook cover crop 52.3 37.6 14.9 —– 53.2 51.0 47.0 46.4 29.1 36.4 —–
LSD(0.10) 8 11 5.0 —– 5.6 —– 4.2 —– 6.5 —– —–

*University of Minnesota Report, including yields for each of five sites, available at:https://www.maes.umn.edu/sites/maes.umn.edu/files/2017_winter_rye_final.pdf

** North Dakota State University Reports available at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/?b_start:int=0

*** University of Wisconsin Report available at: https://coolbean.info/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/10/Rye-grain.pdf

****Results followed by the same letters are statistically the same

Table 4. Forage yields for two forage-types hybrid rye varieties and several grain-type open pollinated varieties.

U of Wisconsin—–Arlington Research Center*
Harvest date and plant growth stage at harvest
5/23—heading (5/29 for Trical 815) 6/22—-kernel milky ripe
Hybrids CP DM RFQ Relative Feed Quality CP DM RFQ Relative Feed Quality
% tons/A % tons/A
Daniello 16.4 A** 2.85 DE 139.8 A 6.9 E 5.47 B 100.4 C
Progas 15.3 B 3.05 D 132.3 AB 7.5 DE 5.70 AB 110.3 C
Propower 13.8 C 3.00 DE 123.3 B 7.1 E 5.84 A 108.8 C
Trical 815 15.9 AB 2.68 E 135.0 AB 8.5 D 4.45 C 98.9 C
NDSU——- Carrington Research Center***
O.P.s Harvest Vigor**** Stand Heading date Plant ht Harvest H2O Dry matter yield
date % In. % Tons/A
Rymin June 8 7.0 96.3 June 2 38.6 70.4 2.29
ND Dylan June 8 8.0 98.8 June 2 43.1 68.0 2.72
Dacold June 8 4.3 93.8 June 6 44.7 69.3 2.43
Aroostook June 1 2.3 80.0 May 28 34.4 73.6 1.79
Wheeler June 8 3.5 88.8 June 5 44.4 70.0 2.07
LSD (0.10) 1.5 5.8 2.8 2.0 0.29

*University of Wisconsin 2018 full report available at: https://coolbean.info/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/10/Hybrid-rye-silage.pdf

**Results within the same column followed by the same letters are statistically the same

***North Dakota State University 2017 full report available at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/carrington-rec/2017-trial-results/2017-trial-results-forages-winter-rye-carrington/view

****Vigor: 1=worst   10=best


Margaret Smith, Agronomist, Albert Lea Seed

Claus Nymand, Product Manager – Hybrid Rye North America, KWS Cereals USA LLC