CREC Continues to Study Diverse Uses of Winter Rye

From using rye seed of unknown origin to leading the development and release of two different winter rye varieties in the last 10 years, Steve Zwinger, research agronomy specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC), has been a busy guy.  

Zwinger helped develop and release ND Dylan rye variety in 2016, after more than 20 years since the last time NDSU had developed a rye variety. Named for Zwinger’s late son Dylan, a young man who loved the land, ND Dylan has proven to live up to its characteristics.  

A high yield and very good winter hardiness make the ND Dylan variety ideal for use in North Dakota. The combination of early season vigor scores and winter hardiness show ND Dylan’s potential for use as a grain, cover or forage crop. This variety is tall, has good straw strength and is medium-late in its maturity.  

From 2007 to 2018, Zwinger and fellow scientists and researchers at the CREC worked to develop and release the ND Gardner rye variety.  

Tall, early maturing, early season vigor and winter hardiness are the main traits that make ND Gardner desirable for cover crop and forage use.  

“Though a minor crop, winter rye tends to require less inputs to raise and performs well under low fertility and moisture conditions,” says Zwinger. “We are really seeing it gain popularity as reliable cover for erosion control.”  

These traits are the reasons for the increasing popularity of rye being used in the rotation as a grain, forage or cover crop.  

Since the development of these two varieties, the CREC has continued to grow foundation seed for the NDSU Foundation Seedstocks program. The production of adequate foundation seed is an important step in providing farmers with improved varieties from NDSU plant breeding programs.  

Because of its increased use by farmers in the state and its versatility as a grain, forage or cover crop, the CREC is using rye in multiple agronomy research studies under both conventional and organic management.  

“Because of winter rye’s diversity, it really brings together an interdisciplinary team of agronomists, weed scientists, soil scientists, plant pathologists and animal scientists to understand it’s uses and then to take that knowledge to farmers,” concludes Zwinger.  


Steve Zwinger, 701-652-2951,


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