Lebanon Crop Management Video


12 April 2012

Rye heads showing

South Lebanon heads are popping.  Time to chop

Ryelage Harvest

Posted: April 19, 2011
Rye cover crops are one of the fastest growing cover crops in the spring. To ensure high quality ryelage harvest, producers must have harvest equipment ready to go. Quality of ryelage rapidly decreases with maturity and one day in harvest delay can make the difference between high quality and average to poor quality forage. If producers rely on custom harvesters, these individuals need to be contacted now to plan approximate harvest schedules.
Timing of ryelage harvest is critical to ensuring high quality forages. Waiting until head emergence is too late as the rapid maturing of the plants results in high fiber, lower quality forages. Monitoring stands for the emergence of the flag leaf is important. Shortly after flag leaf emergence the flower head will emerge. Timing of harvest prior to head emergence is the goal. Producers can carefully dissect tillers or feel for the flower head to determine stage of growth.
High amounts of forage dry matter from rye stands present a challenge for rapid dry down. The faster the forage is wilted to optimum fermentation dry matter levels the higher the levels of plant sugars remaining in the plant which results in better fermentation and higher quality forage. By mowing and not conditioning the rye and then putting the forage in as wide a swath as possible producers can take advantage of sunlight to increase rates of dry down. Conditioning is important for drying forages to hay moisture levels but does not benefit haylage storage practices.
Many successful ryelage producers also ted their rye to speed dry down. Most will ted as soon after mowing as the surface of the swath is dry. This is usually followed by a second tedding when the tops of the forage is dry and finally a rake is used when dry matters are close to harvest targets (35 – 38%) to prepare the field for chopping.
Another successful practice is to include the use of inoculants to speed the fermentation process in the ryelage storage structure. Be sure to talk to your supplier to select the proper inoculants for a ryelage crop. Be certain to check inoculant rates and the manufacturer date to ensure high quality products. When filling the inoculant tank do not use chlorinated water. Chlorine in public water systems can negatively affect inoculants survivability. Another factor that has been shown to affect inoculant survival is temperature of the water on the choppers. When tanks are located near engines and/or exposed to sunlight, high water temperatures can reduce viability of the bacteria. Rapid harvest, heavy packing and covering of the pile are additional keys to ensuring high quality forages in bunker silos.
By Paul Craig, Senior Extension Educator, Dauphin County

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