March 12, 2017

13/03/2017: Rye, why isn’t rye growth much more prevalent?

by Andrew Wilkinson, Milling & Grain Magazine

A highly versatile crop, rye (Secale cereale) is grown primarily as a forage for cattle and other ruminant livestock, whilst also being grown for use as a feed ingredient, for alcohol distillation, and for use in human consumption

Initially, rye likely began growing in the area of what is now present-day Turkey, but it is possible that it could have come across from much farther east still.

Reaching its apex fairly quickly, rye was already widely cultivated by the Romans, although there is evidence that it was grown far earlier too.

Agriculturally, rye is very similar to wheat and barley, so it has many of the same applications. Given how easy it is to grow and how hardy it is as an agricultural staple, why isn’t rye growth much more prevalent?

In global terms at least, the number of rye cultivators is relatively low, especially when compared with wheat and barley. There are exceptions of course; regions such as Scandinavia are examples of where rye production bucks the international trend.

There has also been considerably less effort put into the development and improvement of rye, in part because rye is a cross-pollinator, whereas wheat and barley are self-pollinators, with cross-pollinators making the maintenance of pure lines of breeding stock incredibly difficult.

Production and export
Rye is grown primarily in Eastern, Central and Northern Europe. The main rye belt stretches from northern Germany through Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia into central and northern Russia.

Rye is also grown in North America (Canada and the United States), in South America (Argentina, Brazil and Chile), in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), in Turkey, in Kazakhstan and in northern China.

Production levels of rye have fallen in most of the producing nations, as of 2012. For example, production of rye in Russia fell from 13.9 million metric tons (t) in 1992 to 2.1 t in 2012.

Generally speaking, rye is either consumed close to where it is grown or exported to neighboring countries, rather than being shipped worldwide – like the crop’s counterparts wheat and barley now so often are.

Feeding value
According to Denmark-based KWS agronomist Jacob Nymand, rye is already poised to become the main grain source for cattle and pigs in his country, and he sees there being “no reason” why it shouldn’t become a major feed source elsewhere in the world too.

However, while rye has a lower feeding value than wheat (4-5 percent less MJ/100kg of grain) and a 1-2 percent lower protein content, its higher yield generates more feed value/ha on light soils than wheat, and while rye has similar fibre content to other grain, the fibres do take a very long time to breakdown.

“So, in the same way that rye bread makes us feel fuller for longer, the same applies to pigs,” stated Mr Nymand, in a recent interview with PigWorld.

He added that, “While this is a potential negative in pig production, using a wet feed system where the rye is fermented enables intakes of 20-40 percent in the ration and has the benefit of leaner meat, improving marketability.”

As a result, about 150,000ha of rye is now grown for both human and animal feed purposes in Denmark, and the area is expected to grow further – largely at the expense of second placed wheat.

Read the full article HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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