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Rye, Triticale or Wheat – which is best?

Daren Redfearn

Are you planting or at least thinking about planting cereal rye, triticale, or winter wheat for early spring forage? Which one will you choose?

Which small grain – wheat, rye, or triticale – should you plant this fall for forage next spring? Let’s look at some of their characteristics to help you select the best option.

Let’s start with cereal rye. Rye is the best choice for the earliest spring grazing possible. Because it’s early, it is also the best match for double cropping. Some varieties can provide quite a bit of fall growth, too, if planted early. Rye also may be the most reliable when planted under stressful conditions…but it does have some drawbacks. It much earlier than wheat or triticale and turns stemmy, losing feed value and palatability earlier in the spring. Plus, wheat grain producers don’t want it contaminating fields.

Triticale holds its feed value best into late spring. This makes it well-suited for hay and silage, or for stretching grazing well into June if you don’t mind starting to graze two weeks later compared to rye. But triticale tends to be more susceptible to winter injury.

Winter wheat has been the small grain of choice for winter and spring grazing in Texas and Oklahoma. Warmer winter temperatures allow growth to continue, although slowly. In Nebraska where winter wheat goes dormant, its carrying capacity is not as high as cereal rye or triticale. But it is top quality before stems develop and grazing removal. It’s the clear choice if you want dual use as early pasture and then for grain.

There it is. Cereal rye for early grazing, triticale for hay, silage, or later grazing, and wheat for grazing plus grain. You may have other factors affecting your choice, but in general, these guidelines work well.

–UNL Extension


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