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

2016 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%. This triggered more on-farm experimentation with 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. The dataset was increased to now include 59 on-farm trials with triticale and cereal rye and forage analyses for all sites.

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 conducted additional on-farm N rate trials, and analyzed 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 conducted economic analyses of double crop rotations. Our on-farm research partnership was expanded with new collaborators to expose them to on-farm research and farmers and farm advisors 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

Performance target:

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 2013-2014-2015-2016 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).


In 2016, we added another on-farm trial (at the Curtis Martin farm) to the database, consisting of 5 N rates, 4 times replicated. This expanded the dataset to 59 fully completed on-farm N rate studies with cereal rye and triticale (plus 4 wheat studies). Each of these trials were initiated at green-up and harvested in May in collaboration with local consultants (four sites) and extension educator (two sites). The entire project now includes 47 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). All participating farmers received yield reports that summarize yields achieved, optimum N rates, soil fertility information and forage quality parameters. We are working with statistical consulting on the Cornell campus to evaluate 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. The dataset shows that about a third of all fields did not need extra N while for fields that did respond to fertilizer N, the optimum N rate ranged from 60-80 lbs N/acre.

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 consistently increased with N applied (on average an increase of 1% for every 15-16 lbs of nitrogen per acre added).

The economic analysis, conducted in collaboration with project counterparts in all major agricultural regions in the state, was published and presented in numerous extension talks this past year. Four extension educators worked with the farm business specialist on the economic analyses of the new rotation, summarizing data 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 and a new impact story (“When is it profitable to double crop corn silage and winter grains for forage (” that was added to the project website ( 

A farmer impact story featuring John Kemmeren (, one of the farmers in eastern NY, was published and we are almost done with a story for Curtis Martin (, who participated this year. This new impact story will be added to the series once completed. John spoke about his experiences in no-till and with winter cereals and the project at the National No Tillage Conference in Indianapolis in January 2016.

This year, results to date were presented at several extension meetings including the Soil Health Workshop at the Big Flats Plant Material Center (estimated 120 people), the Agriculture In-Service (estimated 20 people), the Northeast Region Certified Crop Advisor annual training (90 people both in 2015 and 2016), the International Agronomy, Soil Science, and Crop Science Society joint meeting (estimated 35 people), the Northeast Regional Agronomy, Soil Science, and Crop Science Society joint meeting (estimated 30 people), The Cornell Nutrition Conference (465 people preregistered), the Aurora Research Farm Field Day (164 people attending), and the Northern New York Agriculture Development Program annual meeting (45 people). Additional talks will be given in the coming winter months.

Surveys are being developed at the moment to interview farmers and consultants with experience with feeding winter cereals.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Surveys are being developed at the moment to interview farmers and consultants with experience with feeding winter cereals. The interest in use of winter cereals is growing and there is also a growing interest, especially with the drought of 2016, to evaluate forage sorghum as a shorter season and high-yielding alternative to corn silage, in rotation with winter cereals. We published a series of impact stories on double cropping with winter cereals that started with an article about the farmer who conducted the first trial with us in 2012 and includes the John Kemmeren story and soon the Curtis Martin story:

We also worked with a Cornell undergraduate student this fall semester to develop a new agronomy factsheet that explains forage quality parameters. This topic was selected by the student and was relevant to the project as well. The new factsheet was posted last week at:





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