ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Can I substitute rye for wheat?

Posted May 12, 2006

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

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Dear Jeff,

Would winter rye be a good substitute for your wheat, or does it grow too thick? I don't have combining equipment so would cut the rye before it ripens.

James Pingry

Dear James,

I'm not sure how you plan to use the rye or wheat in your reference to substitution. As far as the rotation goes, both these crops are winter annuals so there timing is very similar and either crop can fit into the rotation. As such they are interchangeable. If your plan is to cut the rye early to use as straw, rye is a great choice because of the amount of straw it produces. If you aren't looking for grain yields, either crop can work.