IT’S ONE of the ‘in crops’ just now and growers are being urged to focus on grain yield type characteristics in the rye choices for next year.

It seems it is all about grains per ear, rather than out and out tonnage for hybrid rye destined for anaerobic digestion (AD) systems. Operators of AD plants say improved performance levels come by moving to hybrid rye varieties carrying more grains per ear.

According to John Burgess, KWS’ maize and hybrid rye product manager, growers should focus on this trait, rather than plant height, to increase wholecrop yields.

“There is a balance to be had between plant height and grains per ear when seeking to maximise wholecrop yields, but with the ear contributing roughly 50% of the final yield variety choice and diligent use of plant growth regulators are essential,” he said.

There is a mistaken belief, he added, that plant height was the key to achieving high yields, However, this overlooked the valuable contribution that comes from managing the canopy to increase ear development.

“Breeding advances have focussed on improving yields through bigger ears while making canopy management easier through better stability and standing power. New AD varieties, such as KWS Propower and, for 2018, KWS Eterno and KWS Edmondo, deliver higher yields than the benchmark variety, KWS Progas, but are slightly shorter and more manageable,” added Mr Burgess.

Nutrient management is also important, with up to date trials suggesting that the wholecrop yield of KWS Propower increased by more than 15% with a small increase in nitrogen.

“Across all our specialist AD varieties we observed a yield increase when nitrogen applications rose form 50 kg N/ha to 80 kg N/ha with KWS Propower, KWS Edmondo and KWS Eterno showing the biggest responses of between 10 and 15%,” said Mr Burgess.

Timing is equally important as hybrid rye is quick to move through stem extension. “Nitrogen should be applied in two splits between growth stages 29 and 32, which coincides with T0 and T1 fungicide timings,” he added.