At first blush, it’s easy to get cereal rye and annual rye mixed up. Both are cover crops, both look similar, both help farmers be more efficient. But it’s important to tell them apart — they bring different benefits to a cover crop rotation. So we made a lifelike model of cereal rye to help people understand those differences.
Unlike annual rye, which is a grass, cereal rye is a type of grain. It’s been called the “hardiest of all cereals” thanks to its impressive cold tolerance. Although it doesn’t have the same anti-compaction benefits as annual rye, it does similarly help prevent erosion.
Cereal rye scavenges excess nitrogen from the soil, preventing it from running off and polluting nearby streams and rivers. It also helps pull up potassium from lower soil layers, so more potassium is immediately available for the next crop. (The importance of its root system is one reason why our model includes the roots as well as the leaves.)
Furthermore, cereal rye brings some noteworthy pest-control benefits. Because it grows thickly, it’s excellent at suppressing weeds. Farmers have used it successfully against herbicide-resistent weeds that are difficult to kill by other methods. Additionally, cereal rye can help reduce nematode populations, including root-knot nematodes. Since root-knot nematodes attack a wide variety of plants, from cash crops to specialty crops, cereal rye has the potential to help many different kinds of growers.
Replicating Different Ryes
We took pains to distinguish our model of cereal rye from our model of annual rye. The most visible difference is in the leaves. Cereal rye’s leaves are much bendier than annual rye’s leaves, which tend to grow very straight. We also included a label to identify each plant. Our model shows people the below-ground structure of the root system as well as the leaves.
Want to educate people about another cover crop too? We have several other options in our collection of cover crop models.