Winter Rye versus Winter Wheat an LC (Paul) Classic


Well-Known Member
Copied from the "other" forum so we don't loose it... Matt

Begin LC's Post...
When I was younger I was on a livestock judging team and we would have to judge a set of 4 steers upon which we would write down the placement and then have to stand before a huge crowded auditorium and give our REASONS...

Man I hated that...but just placing the animals in some order wasn't enough...we had to tell the whole world exactly WHY, 2 was better then 4, 3 then 1 and so one.

Food plot crops are no different, there are good, better and best options for everyone and wheat and rye have different attributes...or lack of them that many are not aware of.

I recommend cereal rye for many reasons, that combined, make an awesome choice for everyone to whom it is available. For those who can only purchase wheat worries, it will work just fine.

I recommend things because I have over 50 years of trialing and testing, not just for deer but as a cattleman who is used to forage testing all types of food sources to feed the very best sources of protein to livestock.

My assumption is that most of you if given the opportunity would prefer to do the same thing for your deer herd.

So rye is in most cases higher in crude and digestible protein then all other cereal grains but that's far from the only reason as rye is capable of recycling nitrogen that wheat uses and then it's GONE!

Here are some more things to consider that are also posted in my thread:

A rye cover crop and manure applications are mutually beneficial. Manure nutrients aid in decomposition of the rye, offsetting any potential yield drag, and rye captures and recycles the manure nutrients effectively to the future corn crop, reducing commercial fertilizer needs.

Rye is one of the best scavengers of nitrogen and reduces leaching losses on both sandy soils and tile-drained land. The fast growing, fibrous root system can capture 25 to 100 pounds of soil nitrogen per acre.

Seeding rye in late summer or early fall will allow it to scavenge nitrogen. When organic N (from manure or legumes) is still available.

Rye can capture this nitrogen and recycle it to the following season. The actual amount of nitrogen that is recycled is highly variable. A presidedress soil nitrate test can help determine the amount of nitrogen credit to take for the upcoming corn crop.

Rye should be allowed to grow over the winter to continue taking up N in the spring.

Rye is the hardiest of cereals and can be seeded later in the fall than other cover crops, and it provides top growth and extensive root growth. It will germinate at cold temperatures—as low as 34 degrees F—and it will resume growing at 38 degrees in the spring. This makes it possible to seed rye after corn, sugar beet or bean harvest until the ground freezes.

It is relatively inexpensive to plant, and the seed is readily available or easily grown.

Easy to establish, rye can be aerial seeded in standing corn/silage and before leaf drop in soybean. Rye can be broadcast alone or with dry fertilizers, can be added to manure tanks for slurry seeding or drilled (which provides the most consistent stands).

It outperforms most other crops on infertile, sandy or acidic soil. It is also tolerant of a variety of soil types and grows well on both poorly and well-drained soils.

Rye can recycle potassium from deeper in the soil profile for future crop use.

Rye is effective at suppressing weeds. It competes with winter annuals and inhibits growth of spring weeds. As rye residue decomposes, it releases allelopathic compounds that are harmful to the growth of weeds.
The rapid fall and spring growth can stabilize sandy soil, trap snow and improve infiltration.

Rye is utilized for many cropping systems, including fruits and vegetables, where it can be left in narrow strips to reduce wind erosion.

Rye, and all cover crops, build soil quality over time by adding organic matter. Long-term benefits include improved soil structure, tilth, water infiltration and water-holding capacity.

If you prefer to plant wheat or barley or whatever that's none of my concern but there are hundreds of new people anxious to learn how to best feed their whitetails, improve their soils and save money at the same time. It is to those people I prefer to give the best recommendations based on factual truths...not here-say.

One can plant something and attract deer but that doesn't make it better then other options. When I judged those cattle I was young and although I had good training and natural skills I was often wrong and when they told me so I didn't care for it. The panel of judges however were experienced seasoned cattlemen who knew better then I the merits of each steer and I learned from them because they not only said I was wrong, but why.

I hope most of you will take time to really read my threads and understand the merits of each crop and learn to understand the difference between protein and digestible protein, what alleopathic chemicals are and how crops can build soils and store nitrogen and which crops are superior at doing all of those things including attracting whitetails...

Understanding Cereal Grains and Cover Crops

This version is longer but also contains a great deal of supporting data and a plethora of helpful information for those with the time to read through it.

All about cereal grains and cover crops

Knowledge and options will help each landowner decide what is right for them...


The above comments are meant to show the attributes of rye over wheat but I never plant rye alone bbut instead plant the following mix of which rye is the corner stone

Winter rye 50-80#'s per acre (56#'s = a bushel)
Spring oats 80-120#'s per acre (32#'s = a bushel)
Austrian Winter Peas or 4010/6040 Forage peas 20-80#'s per acre
Red Clover 8-12#'s per acre or white clover at 6#'s per acre
Groundhog Forage Radish 5#'s per acre

Plant seeds roughly 1-2" deep by lightly tilling or discing in, and then cultipack to cover, broadcast clover and radish seed and re-cultipack

Plant fall grains no earlier then the last week of August through mid September, earlier is better when adding peas and clover

Last edited by Lickcreek : 12-20-2011 at 10:37 AM.
Remember, LC took quite a beating by some that argued the benefits of whether rye was better than wheat. He spent a lot of time defending his beliefs. Was always a fun watch of his arguments. He certainly had a great combo rotation that almost all of us use in some way.
Due to some plot issues, it seems as I will be giving rye the a try on a few spots this year. Maybe I should mix it though ...
I love wr in my mix, I use ww, wr, PTT, radishes, winter peas, and either ladino or durana clover, this ends up a good fall mix, then in the spring the peas climb the rye stalks, and you have some thick clover underneath giving me a fall and spring plot only planting once a year.
I've planted LC's grain mix (with slight variations) for several years with very good success. This fall though I am dropping the oats and doubling the rye. It's a test, really. But my hope is to increase the field cover in the spring for fawning. The expected downside though, is that I believe my clover will have a harder time getting sunlight. But it may be a good trade-off.
There is knowledge and then there is wisdom. LC had copious amounts of both. I sure miss the incredibly positive outlook he always brought to the forums. Even when I already knew what he was going to write, I never missed one of his posts.
I've planted LC's grain mix (with slight variations) for several years with very good success. This fall though I am dropping the oats and doubling the rye. It's a test, really. But my hope is to increase the field cover in the spring for fawning. The expected downside though, is that I believe my clover will have a harder time getting sunlight. But it may be a good trade-off.

The Oats are a tremendous attraction in the fall. I would build my fawning cover with a chainsaw. Just my opinion on the importance of the oats in the mix.