Evaluating Rye Germplasm for Use as a Cover Crop in the Upper Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2007: $9,898.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Paul Porter
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: rye, wheat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, winter forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: cultural control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Cover cropping is an increasingly important part of the cropping system in the Northern Midwest United States. Rye has been used as a cover crop successfully in both organic and conventional systems in rotations with soybean, corn, small grains, potato, canning crops, and sugar beet. Growers use rye for many different reasons including erosion control, weed control, disease management, as forage, to increase soil organic matter, and to install more diversity (time, space, growth form, and phenology) into their current rotations. Optimization of planting date will allow growers to plant according to more specific objectives. Seeding methods and planting date differ depending on the rotation into which the rye is planted. Earlier seeding allows for more versatile use of the rye and maximizes the benefit of the rye cover. Finding appropriate rye germplasm containing useful cover crop traits is needed to be able to maximize the effectiveness of the rye cover. Data regarding the diversity of rye germplasm will be crucial in helping to modify the way this cover crop is used. To date, breeding and selection efforts with rye have not focused on its use as a cover crop. Attention to traits such as early seedling vigor, fast biomass accumulation and canopy closure, and earliness to anthesis will increase the usefulness of rye as a cover crop.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-term project objectives:
    -Greater understanding of planting date on effectiveness of a rye cover crop at different latitudes in Minnesota;
    -Disseminate results to Minnesota farmers regarding rye as cover crop.

    Intermediate-term project goals:
    -Comparison of rye to related fall-planted species;
    -Develop a greater understanding of variability in rye germplasm through the growing out of rye accessions to evaluate for quick fall biomass, larger amounts of early-season spring biomass, and an earliness to anthesis while still maintaining appropriate winter hardiness for northern tier states in the US.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.