TBARS has always been on lookout for new opportunities/options for the northwestern Ontario farmers. Recently, we seeded perennial rye (Variety Ace 1) at TBARS, Thunder Bay. Unlike annual/winter rye, perennial rye doesn’t have to be seeded every year; thus obviating the need for and lowering the cost of land preparation. This is particularly important for shallow soils/and fields with slopes subject to soil erosion or rocky fields that can bring up rocks through land cultivation. Ace 1 was developed by Dr. Surya Acharya of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Research Centre, Lethbridge, Alberta. It isn’t registered for grain production because of grains’ high ergot (a fungal disease) infestation; more than 10 % in some cases. However, it has high potential for livestock producers. It can be grazed in early spring or harvested for dry hay/or silage at soft dough stage in late spring/early summer. The crop will regrow after harvesting for forage and could be grazed in the fall. It can be green fed as well. The crop can be direct seeded with the least soil disturbance. Coupled with dense rooting system, perennial rye cultivation will protect soils and improve soil health (soil structure, biology and organic matter). As per Dr. Acharya, ACE-1 is easy to establish, competes well with weeds, grows early in spring, produces more biomass than barley and fall rye both under dryland and irrigated conditions, though it produces less seed yield than high yielding fall rye cultivars. Forage quality of ACE-1 was found to be similar to barley; one of the main forage crops in Thunder Bay.
Perennial rye can also be harvested for feed grain. The ergot infested grains being light can be blown away with the high fan speed of combine harvester. The crop could be used for biomass production as well. Once seeded, it can continue for four years, though the crop stand may start declining in the third year. We are growing perennial rye in the same plot range as the winter rye that will make a good comparison. Our current evaluation on perennial rye aims to determine its (i) optimum seed rate, (ii) winter survival and spring stands and (iii) forage and grain yields. The crop hasn’t gone for commercial production on farms in Canada as yet, because there is not enough seed. AAFC Lethbridge is multiplying perennial rye seed. By then we would be ready to answer some basic questions to our producers from our research on perennial rye. TBARS believes in staying ahead of the game!