New cover crop publication discusses planting cereal rye after corn harvest

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A new publication from K-State and the Midwest Cover Crop Council has been released and provides helpful information for producers looking to incorporate a cereal rye cover crop following corn harvest. This factsheet is an excellent resource for farmers that are new to cover crops.

Cereal rye can be part of an effective weed management program in soybean production. The growing cover crop competes with weeds that emerge early in the spring and residue from the terminated cereal rye can suppress weed growth. Cereal rye residue can also reduce evaporation from the soil during the growing season and (Figure 1). With corn harvest coming, producers need to get their cereal rye seed ordered so that the cover crop can be planted quickly following harvest.

Figure 1. "Clean" soybeans - the heavy residue mat from the terminated cereal rye cover crop is helping control weeds throughout the growing season. Photo by DeAnn Presley, K-State Research and Extension.

This publication covers a variety of topics that are summarized in this article. The complete factsheet can be viewed at:


Planning and Preparation

  • Residual corn herbicides—Fall-seeded cereal rye can be established successfully following application of most herbicides used in corn production; but, success is influenced by herbicide rate and environmental conditions that followed the herbicide application. If cereal rye will be grazed or fed to livestock, there are some restrictions. See the USDA-NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines, or consult your agricultural chemical supplier or agronomist for potential carryover herbicide concerns, and always read and follow the instruction on the herbicide label.
  • Seed purchase—Order cereal rye seed early. Named varieties can produce substantially more growth or more predictable growth and maturity but are more expensive than VNS (variety not stated) seed. Start with VNS seed with a good germination rate that is purchased from a reputable seed dealer. This means seed has been cleaned, tested for germination, and has a seed tag even though it is VNS.

Fall Work

  • Corn harvest—Harvest the crop as early as possible in fields to be planted to cereal rye.
  • Tillage or no-tillage—To allow for adequate cover crop growth, it is best or easier if no full-width tillage is planned for after rye planting or before intended rye termination date. Thus, it is easier to integrate cover crops into no-till or strip-till systems.
  • Timing of planting—Plant cereal rye as soon after corn harvest as possible. Use the Cover Crop Selector Tool (in Resources) to find planting dates for your county. For most of Kansas, plant no later than November 1.
  • Seeding rate—The recommended drilled seeding rate is 55 to 60 pounds per acre; if seeded with an airplane, the rates should be 1.5 times the drilled rate (required if participating in USDA-NRCS programs). These rates are based on high-quality seed with germination rates of 85 to 98%. Increase rates with later plantings.
  • Planting method—Drill seed 0.75 to 1.50 inches deep or broadcast with shallow incorporation.

Helpful resources

Cover Crop Selector Tool –, available from Midwest Cover Crops Council,

USDA-NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines –



DeAnn Presley, Soil Management Specialist

Sarah Lancaster, Extension Weed Science Specialist,

Tags:  cover crops cereal rye weed suppression water conservation