Home Discussion Forum Cover Crops Winter rye frost seeded in the spring??

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    Profile photo of Kevan Klingberg
    Kevan Klingberg
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    As part of our continued interest in cover crops, there came a point last winter where someone wondered “what would happen if winter rye was broadcast spread in a frost seeding scenario in March?”

    One of the lines of thinking is to do this on corn fields that will be rotated to soybeans. For example, 1. the rye begins growing from March – early May; 2. Soybeans get no-till planted into living rye; 3. Wait an appropriate time, per weed growth stage – then spray glyphosate.

    Winter rye that does not receive winter temperatures remains vegetative and will not become reproductive. This could result in a green cover during pre-plant time, and green cover for 2 weeks post plant. This could be a soil conservation benefit – if frost seeding rye works.

    We did a small and simple trial.

    Within the Elk Creek Farmer Led Watershed area we had 2 farmers that gave this a try, both near Independence, WI. They broadcast spread winter rye onto a field that was corn in 2016 with plans to plant soybeans in 2017. Frost seeding was done between March 15-20. Weather was typical following seeding: at least a couple freeze / thaw days and nicely adequate spring rains. Both fields were observed in mid-April.

    The mid-April observation showed: no green rye was seen. No germinating rye seeds were seen. Rye seeds were on the soil surface, and even under residue. Some rye seeds were hung up within residue. Rye seeds were either wet and showing no signs of germination (no emerging rootlets) or wet and mushy / on the way toward rotting.

    For this demonstration, frost seeding winter rye in mid-March into a previous season corn field did not work.

    Future consideration: theoretically, winter rye that gets planted in the spring should grow. We know broadcast seeding of rye works in the fall. We also know that frost seeding (very early spring) of small seeded legumes into winter wheat or pastures works.

    Field observations showed seeds on top of the soil that did not appear “planted” by the frost seeding attempt. Maybe the rye could be broadcast spread 10 days earlier to take more advantage of the freeze / thaw mechanics? Maybe this could be attempted on a field that had shallow fall tillage after the previous corn to explore a seedbed environment with a bit of soil and residue roughing?

    Does anyone know of a case in WI where something like this has resulted in living rye?

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