- Agronomic: rye
- Animal Production: winter forage
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, seed saving, varieties and cultivars
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: market study, value added
Problem or Opportunity and Justification:
While rye has been grown as a domesticated crop for thousands of years, farmers in New England and the rest of the Northeast still lack vital information on how to grow high quality rye for food and beverage markets, even including information on what makes for a high quality rye harvest. Rye is grown on over 30,000 acres in Vermont as a cover crop to provide winter soil cover and nitrogen retention. There is outstanding potential for this acreage to produce high quality rye that can also generate revenue for farmers. Some quality parameters for rye are well-defined, including desired plumpness, test weight, and protein levels, but require additional research in to varietal selection and agronomic practices to help farmers produce rye that meets these criteria. For other quality parameters related to proxies for baking quality (such as falling number), more work is needed with bakers and other end users of rye grain to help determine what range of characteristics indicate that a rye harvest is suitable for baking. More work also needs to be done to help farmers gain access to processing equipment for handling rye and connect farmers to markets for rye for distilling, malting, baking and other culinary uses.
Solution and Approach:
The goal of this project is to bridge information gaps at both ends of the value chain: working with farmers to overcome production challenges and working with processors to create high-quality end products. By working on both sides of the value chain we can increase the acreage of cereal rye harvested for grain which will positively impact soil health, farm viability, and consumer access to local food and beverage. We propose to increase knowledge on production, harvesting, and cleaning techniques, connect farmers to markets, work with end users to better develop and define rye quality criteria, and continue research into varietal selection and agronomic practices for cereal rye. The combination of these solutions will create a foundation of knowledge for farmers to build upon as they begin growing and harvesting rye for grain. The connections developed between farmers, project personnel, and end-users will strengthen the value-chain, increase acreage of rye grown for grain, and increase the value of farmers’ rye crops in Vermont and New York.
Performance targets from proposal:
Thirty farmers in the Northeast will adopt at least one new production or marketing practice that will result in 500 acres (750 tons) of cereal rye being sold into a added-value market and increasing the per ton value of rye an average $600 or $450,000 on the 500 acres.