grain_icon  Species |  Rice |  Maize |  Wheat |  Barley |  Oats |  Foxtail Millet |  Pearl Millet |  Rye |  Sorghum |  Wild Rice |  Brachypodium |  Oryza Species |  Grape |  Arabidopsis

Rye Introduction

grain_icon Rye Introduction |  Facts |  Anatomy |  Taxonomy |  Agronomic Statistics |  Research |  Education |  Nutrition |  Recipes |  News |  Germplasm Resources |  Gramene Statistics |  Gramene Queries

Courtesy Unknown @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Courtesy Unknown @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Courtesy Martin van der Grinten @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Courtesy Martin van der Grinten @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Rye is a hardy grain, more tolerant of frost and drought than is wheat. It is the most winter hardy of all cereals, and is frequently grown under conditions where other cereals fail (1, 4, 8). Rye's drought tolerance is due to it's highly developed root system which uses 20-30% less water than wheat, however differing varieties of rye fair better than others under drought conditions (4). Historically, rye and wheat have been sown together to reduce risk to the grower in years poor for wheat production, and this combination was called "maslin" (1, 10). Breeding wheat to rye produces triticale, which has one set of rye chromosomes and 3 sets of wheat chromosomes (3).


Rye (similarly to oats) is closely related to wheat and barley, and originated as a weed growing in grain fields (7, 10) . It's direct heritage is unknown. Cultivated rye (Secale cereale) is believed to have originated from a wild rye in southwestern Asia (1, 4, 7, 10) somewhere around 1800-1500 BC (10). In Europe rye became staple grain for bread, but was regarded as inferior to wheat bread, which was a luxury food (1). Rye was transported to the Americas by English and Dutch settlers (7). Since the middle ages ryebread has been a traditional foodstuff of not only Russia, but also many of the other republics of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) (1).


Rye (Secale cereale) is a grain and forage crop (10). In Europe most rye production is for bread grains (8). However, Canada and the US grow rye for both grain and forage, with Canadians growing mostly grain (8) and US farmers dedicating less than half their rye to grain (7).

Animal Feed

Grain - One use for rye grain is animal feed. Although rye has a higher feed value than oats or barley, and has a feeding value of 85% to 90% of corn, its high soluble fiber content makes it better suited to ruminants than monogastrics (8). It is most palatable to livestock when it's 1/3 or less of the feed (2, 7). It should not be fed to young animals, as it may cause digestive disorders (2).

Forages - Rye is used as a forage in the form of green chop, pasture, haylage, or hay (9, 10), and is used alone or mixed with clover or ryegrass (7, 10). Although it is less palatable than other forages, it is advantageous because it grows well in lower temperatures and matures earlier than wheat (7). Dairy animals fed rye as a forage may have milk flavor affected (9).

Human Consumption and Utilization

As stated earlier, most rye grown in Europe is for making bread. Canada has a limited amount of rye grain used for distilling and food uses, and in the US about half the rye for grain is used for these purposes (7, 8). Rye grain is used to make flour, animal feed, or beer. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries, or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats (10).

Other uses of rye include rye whiskies, most vodkas, medicinal uses, animal bedding, and fruit and vegetable mulch (7) (10).


Rye is beneficial to the environment. It is used as a cover crop to reduce soil erosion, enhance soil water retention, contribute a green manure, and to reduce weed growth (reducing the need for herbicides) (7, 9).


  1. Allen, T. The World Supply of Fall (Winter) Rye. From Crop Development Center, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. URL:
  2. Animal Feed Resources Information System. Secale Cereale Accessed July 2006.
  3. Armstrong, W.P. (20002-2006) Photos Of Some Important Cereal Grasses, Rye, Wheat, Sorghum & Rice. Accessed 6/2006 from
  4. Ecoport Database. (2002) Cereale Secale. Originally contributed by FAO Accessed from****&entityDisplayCategory=full April, 2006.
  5. FAOSTAT data, 2006. Last Accessed June 2006
  6. Hormel Foods. Rye. Glossary of Kitchen and Food Terms. Accessed 4/24/06
  7. Oelke, E.A., Oplinger, E.S., Bahri, H., Durgan, B. R., Putnam, D. H., Doll, J.D. and Kelling, K.A. (1990). Rye, in Alternative Field Crops Manual.
  8. Small, E. 1999. New crops for Canadian agriculture. p. 15-52. [Rye (Secale cereale L.)] In: J. Janick (ed.), Perspectives on new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
  9. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database, 6 March 2006 ( Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
  10. Wikipedia contributors (2006). Oat. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 2006 from