Hybrid & Conventional Rye

Widely grown in Northern Europe, Hybrid Rye is proving to be an increasingly popular choice for improving the performance of AD (Anaerobic Digestion) Plants. With its excellent yield, flexible drilling dates, vigorous growth habit and very early maturity it provides growers with the opportunity for increased flexibility in terms of the position of energy crops in their rotation as well as reducing the risk of being able to achieve respectable harvest yields and crop quality. With many AD plant managers now realising the limitations of maize and beet as sole or major sources of raw material for their AD plants Hybrid Rye is looking an increasingly attractive choice, both in terms of raw material security and also in-terms of digester performance.

  • Hybrid Rye

    Hybrid Rye

  • Hybrid Rye

    Hybrid Rye

  • Hybrid Rye

    Hybrid Rye

  • Hybrid Rye

    Hybrid Rye

Hybrid Rye in the UK

Hybrid Rye Agrovista Trials Results 2016
Hybrid Rye German Trials Results 2016
Hybrid Rye UK Trials Results 2016

Why grow hybrid rye?

Hybrid rye is an excellent crop to balance other high production substrates such as beet or maize in the production of biogas in AD plants. The addition of hybrid rye to beet or maize provides a different nutrient source for the bacteria in the digester. This has a 2 pronged synergistic effect – the hybrid rye increases methane yield due to a better balance of trace elements and a reduction in retention time in the digester. The latter is very significant as rye will take only 20 days to breakdown in the digester compared with 80 days for maize. The usual ratio is 25% rye to 75% maize. Hybrid Rye is also an excellent alternative to maize where the geography or soil types are not suitable for maize production. In such situations a hybrid rye and beet would make a good combination. Hybrid rye gives higher DM yields than triticale or wheat particularly on poor soils or in colder conditions.

The Growing Crop


Hybrid rye is an excellent crop for drought prone or lighter soils as the crop has a deep root system and is a good scavenger for nutrients and water. Modern hybrid varieties are shorter and stiffer than older conventional varieties and therefore – with an appropriate PGR programme - are suitable for a far wider range of soil types. Hybrid rye suffers less from eyespot than wheat. It is also useful in the control of blackgrass because, with the much greater height than wheat, far less blackgrass seeds are produced – and their viability is very low- and with an early July whole crop harvest the majority of blackgrass seeds will not  have shed. 

Sowing date

Hybrid rye has a wide sowing window. Sowing can start from mid September through to late autumn. It is a particularly good crop for later sowing as it is a very strong tillerer  with  vigorous early spring growth. The yield loss experienced with late sowing of other cereal crops is therefore significantly reduced. Seed rates will depend on time of sowing and soil conditions but approximately 2.5 units of I million viable seeds per ha (equal to 250 viable seeds per sq m) for late September or Early October sowing. Seed rates can be reduced for early/ mid September sowing, and should be increased when sowing after mid October 


Hybrid rye is a crop with good foliar disease resistance and therefore is seen as a low input / high output crop. The vigorous crop growth gives excellent competition for weeds resulting in much reduced herbicide use. Nitrogen levels will be approximately 150 kg/ha in addition to P and K, a single PGR application on lighter soils and usually a maximum of a single fungicide. For heavier land a robust PGR programme is more appropriate, together with a 2nd or 3rd fungicide in situations of high disease pressure - especially Brown rust.

Harvesting and ensiling

The crop can be cut as early as ear emergence, like a green fodder rye, when the dry matter is about 20%. However the most economical timing is at the milky ripe stage when yields would have doubled and the DM increased to about 30-35%.Excepting Barley,  hybrid rye is much quicker in development than other cereal crops, including triticale, and the milky ripe growth stage will usually be in mid to late June. This allows plenty of time for a catch crop or even double cropping. Chop length at harvest should be 7-10mm with the addition of a preservative such as lactic acid when ensiling.

Saaten Union varieties

The varieties selected by Saaten Union have improved crop morphology to allow more potential secondary grain sites to be pollinated and therefore grain yields to be increased. High importance has also been placed on introducing faster spring growth leading to earlier maturity. Disease resistance has also improved. Our hybrid varieties are available in single units of approximately 40 kg or 12 unit bulk bags weighing circa 500 kg.


The most popular Saaten Union variety which is best suited to the conventional ensiling time at the milky ripe stage of growth or about 30-35% dry matter. SU Drive is stiff strawed and suitable for a wide range of soil types. It has good disease resistance, especially to Brown Rust which is important in the South and East of the UK. Good “stay green” characteristics have been bred into the variety widening the harvest window by a few days. SU Drive uses the "Turbo hybrid technology" developed by Saaten Union. This involves the careful selection of the hybrid parents resulting in more fertile grain sites and earlier vigorous growth. In addition Turbo hybrids do not have the pollen enhancing gene - Iran 9 - that is linked to a yield drag. Instead a small percentage of a conventional variety (Dukato) is added to the commercial seed. This increases natural pollen production and gives a greater expression of hybrid vigour.


Saaten Union’s chosen variety for the extremely early harvest at ear emergence (mid May) for those wishing to clear the land and sow maize immediately afterwards. Generator is not a hybrid variety, but is a “green forage” type which has extremely early spring growth and is therefore very well suited to this very early harvest timing. It is not suited to later harvesting as it is too weak in the straw and the yield potential from a mid or late season crop is inferior to SU Drive.


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