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Northern NY Research Tests Corn-Rye Double Cropping Yield, Conservation Opportunities

Could this cornfield support a winter crop? Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded research is testing corn-rye combination yield, conservation opportunities.

Harvested cornfields may look barren, but in some a winter-hardy crop is already growing. The results of field trial research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program evaluating the opportunity to grow winter rye planted in Northern NY cornfields are posted at

W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, N.Y. Is leading the double cropping research. A second of trials assessed the yield and quality of the two crops grown on the same acreage and the opportunity for conservation benefits.

‘Our field work in both years suggests that the presence of the rye cover crop reduced losses of nitrogen and phosphorus in field surface runoff,’ said project leader and Miner Institute Agronomist Eric O. Young.

‘Double cropping with rye and corn silage may be a good fit for farms in Northern New York looking to increase hay forage production while reducing nutrient losses,’ Young added.

Overwintering forage crops such as winter rye, also known as cereal rye, germinate at cooler temperatures and are hardy against Northern New York cold and snow.

‘Establishing a winter forage crop such as rye or triticale after corn silage harvest can reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, and can potentially supply a hay forage crop for spring harvest, but attention to management and the right growing conditions are needed,’ said Young.

The research team has developed insight into practices that could improve the opportunity for yield from both the corn silage crop and the winter rye crop.

The 2016 trials showed that planting corn for silage following a winter rye crop can decrease the corn yield significantly. The corn silage yields were approximately four tons per acre lower in the winter rye plots that year,’ Young said.

He suspects that rye actively growing when the corn was planted in the 2016 trial and no-till planting to establish the corn crop likely exacerbated a yield penalty associated with the rye.

In the 2017 trials, rye and control plots were disked prior to planting corn and there was no significant difference in corn yield.

Young suggests that the rye should be terminated two weeks prior to planting corn in combination with some level of tillage to increase the rye biomass decomposition and allow for easier planting and more consistent planting depth for the corn.

This project is taking advantage of small field plots equipped with tile and surface monitoring capability funded earlier by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. Those plots were used to evaluate the impact of tile drains on phosphorus loss and will assist the double cropping project by indicating how the winter rye impacts the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus in field runoff.

The farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provides research and technical assistance to farmers in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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