Rye has the power of gathering its food from a wider area than most
other plants. Of course, then, it is a fine crop for poor land, and
farmers often plant it only on worn land. However, it is too good a
cereal to be treated in so ungenerous a fashion. As a cover-crop for
poor land it adds much humus to the soil and makes capital grazing.
There are two types of rye--the winter and the spring. The winter type
is chiefly grown in this country. Rye seeds should be bought as near
home as possible, for this plant thrives best when the new crop grows
under the same conditions as the seed crop.
Rye will grow on almost any soil that is drained. Soils that are too
sandy for wheat will generally yield good crops of rye. Clay soils,
however, are not adapted to the plant nor to the grazing for which the
plant is generally sowed. For winter rye the land should be broken from
four to six inches. Harrows should follow the plows until the land is
well pulverized. In some cold prairie lands, however, rye is put in with
a grain-drill before a plow removes the stubble from the land. The
purpose of planting in this way is to let the stubble protect the young
plants from cold, driving winds.
Rye should go into the ground earlier than wheat. In cold, bleak
climates, as well as on poor land, the seeding should be early. The
young plant needs to get rooted and topped before cold weather sets in.
The only danger in very early planting is that leaf-rust sometimes
attacks the forward crop. Of course the earlier the rye is ready for
fall and winter pasturage, the better. If a drill is used for planting,
a seeding of from three to four pecks to the acre should give a good
stand. In case the seeds are to be sowed broadcast, a bushel or a bushel
and a half for every acre is needed. The seed should be covered as wheat
seed is and the ground rolled.
Rye is generally used as a grazing or as a soiling crop. Therefore its
value will depend largely on its vigorous growth in stems and leaves. To
get this growth, liberal amounts of nitrogenous fertilizer will have to
be applied unless the land is very rich. Put barnyard manure on the land
just after the first breaking and disk the manure into the soil. Acid
phosphate and kainite added to the manure may pay handsomely. A spring
top-dressing of nitrate of soda is usually helpful.
Rye has a stiff straw and does not fall, or "lodge," so badly as some of
the other cereals. As soon as rye that is meant for threshing is cut, it
should be put up in shocks until it is thoroughly dry. Begin the cutting
when the kernels are in a tough dough state. The grain should never
stand long in the shocks.