Crops suitable for Northern Ireland conditions are few and far between, but Ray Morrison, of seeds company Morton’s, believes hybrid rye fits the bill.
This variety has the capacity to produce high yields at a low cost per tonne of Dry Matter. Highest yields can be achieved by allowing good establishment and carrying out effective tillering.
The right season and soil type will also help produce strong grain fill and ripening before harvest. Hybrid Rye should be sown slightly more shallow than conventional winter crops of wheat and barley i.e. 1-2 cms deep.
Sown in mid-September and treated very similarly to any other winter cereal crop, it suits a wide range of soil types across the province with crops being grown on free draining clays to lighter sands. Use with very heavy soils should be avoided as it is still important to have a good seedbed which has not been forced.
As Ray explained, there are some key differences between Hybrid Rye and other varieties: “The crop requires a good seed rate in order to achieve the best results, however, this can be much lower than with conventional varieties of wheat and barley. Hybrid Rye is incredibly vigorous and grows very tall, hence the huge yield of biomass. Some growers have used two growth regulator sprays, but many think one will be enough to keep it on its feet,” he said.
Unlike wheat or barley, rye is a cross pollinating species which means that it can be more susceptible to poor flowering and pollination leading to lower grain yields. Many breeders have tried to overcome this problem by using an additional variety as a pollinator within the mix purchased.
KWS is one breeder of hybrid rye that has now found a complete solution to this problem. Introducing a gene into all their hybrids which massively increases the formation of pollen ensures good quality flowering and pollination of grain sites. As a result, grain yields are more consistent from season to season helping to achieve some of the highest total biomass yields, and high quality crops with a good grain yield. The POLLENPLUS® technology, as it is known, is present in all KWS hybrid rye varieties.
Hybrid rye offers an alternative to wheat, barley and oats for those stock farmers looking to try a different crop.