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Rye in Illinois field suppresses weeds

Rye in Illinois field suppresses weeds

Rye was planted in an Illinois field in November and harvested in June as silage. The rye suppressed a waterhemp problem in the field. Soybeans were planted into the rye stubble immediately after the crop was harvested.

Grower Kent Lock found a win-win solution when he planted a field of rye on his Avon, IL, farm. First, he harvested the rye for silage to feed to his cow-calf herd. Second, the rye suppressed a nasty waterhemp problem in the field. Lock planted soybeans into the rye stubble just hours after harvesting the rye, and no weeds were in sight.

Alternative crops like rye are still rare in many parts of the Corn Belt. But the benefits of these crops are attracting interest among growers like Lock. He’d heard that rye is an allelopathic crop, meaning it has the ability to chemically suppress weeds. Plus, he knew it is an excellent forage for livestock.

Lock decided to try planting rye on a 10-acre field near his silo. He purchased 20 bags of rye seed and planted it last November into soybean stubble. He used his John Deere 750 drill with the seed meters wide open to plant. He used about 2 bu. seed/acre.

The rye grew about 1 in. before the ground froze. This spring, the rye grew well. By mid-June, it was ready to harvest. Lock had to select a couple of the few dry days to mow and chop the rye. He added a lactobacillus bacteria culture to the silage during harvest. The bacteria produces lactic acid to improve silage quality.

Immediately after harvesting the rye, Lock fertilized and planted soybeans directly into the rye stubble. No sign of waterhemp or other weeds were evident, he adds.

Lock also considered harvesting the rye as grain to sell as seed or to a distillery. He says he had his eye on a rye whiskey distillery in Iowa but ended up using the rye as silage.

Although Lock planted rye for feed, rye also is considered a good cover crop because it contributes organic matter to the soil, reduces soil erosion and enhances water penetration.

For more information about rye for weed control, visit

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