Winter triticale or rye as a double crop to protect the environment and increase yield

2015 Annual Report for LNE14-332

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $143,822.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Quirine Ketterings
Cornell University

Winter triticale or rye as a double crop to protect the environment and increase yield


Overwintering cover crops can conserve soil, improve soil health, capture end-of-season N and supply N for the following crop but farmers are more likely to plant such crops if there is a direct return in the spring (yield benefit). In fall 2010, a western NY dairy planted winter triticale after corn silage and harvested 2.3 tons DM/acre in spring 2011, increasing the overall per acre yield at the farm by 33%. Other farms implemented the practice of double cropping in recent years, partially driven by the 2012 drought that left many farms with a shortage in silage.

Two main research questions remaining are: (1) how much nitrogen is needed at green-up to obtain these yields; and (2) how does double cropping impact field production economics and nutrient balances. In the spring of 2013, 44 on-farm trials were conducted statewide (NY) to evaluate performance of winter cereals on commercial farms and to specifically address the question: “How much N is needed at green-up to obtain economic yields?” The results showed optimum N rates that ranged from zero to about 120 lbs N/acre.

Farmer feedback showed strong interest in continuing to pursue double cropping and on-farm N studies, realizing that N guidelines can only be developed when multiple years are included to capture year to year variability and geographic differences (soil types, growing conditions etc.). In this project, we conduct additional on-farm N rate trials, and analyze forage samples, enabling more accurate assessments of the benefits of winter forages on farm diet formulation and the need for feed imports. In addition, we conduct economic analyses of double crop rotations. Our on-farm research partnership will be expanded with new collaborators to expose them to on-farm research. Three farmers and farm advisors will share their experiences with the project in the form of farmer impact stories, farmer quotes in extension articles and talks, and other outreach activities (field visits, etc.).

Objectives/Performance Targets

Fifteen participating farmers will grow 600 acres of double crops with an average fertilizer use of 60 lbs N/acre (40 lbs N/acre reduction), adding 2 tons DM/acre to the full season yield. Of all corn growers, 60% (representing 300,000 acres) will learn about managing double crops in corn silage rotations and 20% will indicate an interest in including double crops in the future.


  • Eight farmers and eight crop or nutrient management advisors will learn to conduct replicated N rate trials with cereal rye or triticale (on-farm replicated trials as part of the adaptive management process) and gain (additional) experience in growing winter cereals as double crops in corn rotations.
  • All farmers and farm advisors (trials of 2013-2014-2015 combined; estimated 40 farmers, building on 33 farms already in the project with trials in 2013 and 20 farm advisors, expanding beyond the 18 farm advisors who participating in 2013) will gain a better understanding of winter cereal forage quality and management of forage quality.
  • Three groups of four farmers each (three geographic regions in the state) will work with the farm business specialist on the project team to conduct an economic analysis of the new rotation (corn-double crop combination) as impacted by yield, forage quality, and optimum N rate.
  • Three farmers and their farm advisors (also three geographic regions in the state) will share their experiences with the project and the double crop practice in the form of farmer impact stories, farmer quotes in extension articles and talks, and other outreach activities (field visits, etc.).
  • Of all corn silage growers (covering about 500,000 acres in NY), 60% (representing 300,000 acres) will become aware of the existence and results of the project by year 3 though work with their consultants, extension and farmers and extension, popular press articles, and other mailings.
  • Three hundred corn growers will return surveys (postcard survey) and indicate intend to use project results to evaluate N management and include double crops in corn rotations in future years (beyond the scope of the project).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

In 2015, we added six more on-farm trials to the database, each trial consisting of 5 N rates, 4 times replicated. Trials were initiated at green-up and harvested in May in collaboration with local consultants (four sites) and extension educator (two sites). In total, 62 trials were completed (multiple funding sources combined). The entire project now includes 46 farmers and 21 farm advisors (extension, government agencies, private sector consultants).

Data collected included yield and forage quality, and soil samples and field management parameters (field histories). Yield reports were mailed out to all participating farmers and farm advisors, and complete farmer reports were mailed in November of this year, summarizing yields achieved, optimum N rates, soil fertility information and forage quality parameters. Research is ongoing to identify and possibly quantify under what conditions additional N at green-up is needed and where we can grow high yielding crops of high quality without any N addition.

Basic forage quality analyses were completed for the field trials as well. Forage analyses showed no consistent impact of N application on any of the forage quality parameters except for protein levels which increased by 1% for every 15-16 lbs of nitrogen per acre added. More detailed analyses of the importance of starch in the winter forages is ongoing as part of a NESARE graduate student grant (Sarah Lyons).

The yield article that we had in review has now been published (Journal of Agricultural Science in 2015). This article showed average yields of 1.62 and 2.18 tons dry matter (DM) per acre for cereal rye and triticale, respectively with some fields yielding more than 3 tons DM per acre.

An economic analysis was conducted in collaboration with project counterparts in all major agricultural regions in the state. Four extension educators worked with the farm business specialist on the economic analyses of the new rotation. Analyses were done for three farm sizes and various combinations of farm management (from no-till to conventional till, with cereal rye or triticale, etc.). This analyses showed break-even yields ranging from an average of 0.7 tons of DM/acre to 2.3 tons DM/acre, depending on nitrogen needs and a potential for a yield cut in corn planted after harvest of the winter cereal (worst case scenario). The findings were documented in a What’s Cropping Up? extension article, an impact story, and included in the various presentations.

One new impact story (“When is it profitable to double crop corn silage and winter grains for forage?” was added to the project website ( A new article featuring John Kemmeren, one of the farmers in eastern NY, is currently under development. This impact story will be added to the series once completed. John will be speaking about his experiences in no-till and with winter cereals and the project at the National No Tillage Conference in Indianapolis in January 2016.

The farmer survey described in our 2014 report was published as both an extension publication (Ketterings, Q.M., S. Ort, S.N. Swink, G. Godwin, T. Kilcer, J. Miller, B. Verbeten and K.J. Czymmek (2015). Winter cereals as double crops in corn rotations on New York dairy farms. What’s Cropping Up? 25(3): 31-33) and a journal article (Ketterings, Q.M., S. Ort, S.N. Swink, G. Godwin, T. Kilcer, J. Miller, W. Verbeten, and K.J. Czymmek (2015). Winter cereals as double crops in corn rotations on New York dairy farms. Journal of Agricultural Science DOI: 10.5539/jas.v7n2p18).

Preliminary results were presented already at several extension meetings including the Otsego Soil Health and Cover Crop Workshop (about 30 people), Soil Health Workshop at the Big Flats Plant Material Center (estimated 100 people), the Agriculture In-Service (estimated 20 people), the Northeast Region Certified Crop Advisor annual training (90 people), and the Agronomy, Soil Science, and Crop Science Society joint meeting (estimated 35 people). Additional talks will be given in the coming winter months.



Dr. Debbie Cherney
Associate Professor
Cornell University
329 Morrison Hall
Department of Animal Science
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072552882
John Hanchar
Regional Farm Business Specialist
NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team
3 Murray Hill DR
Building 3
Mt Morris, NY 14510
Office Phone: 5859915438
Dr. Jerry Cherney
Cornell University
503 Bradfield Hall
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072550945
Tom Kilcer
Advanced Ag Systems
172 Sunnyside Rd
Kinderhook, NY 12106
Office Phone: 5184212132
Karl Czymmek
Senior Extension Associate
PRODAIRY, Cornell University
328 Morrison Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072554890
Bill Verbeten
Regional Extension Agronomist
NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team
4487 Lake Road
Lockport, NY 14094
Office Phone: 5853134457
Greg Godwin
Research Support Specialist
Cornell University
330 Morrison Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072551723