Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
A winter hybrid rye is performing well for a Norfolk seeking higher gas yields to supply an anaerobic digestor. Positive outlook for hybrid rye grown as energy crop

• Wholecrop for anaerobic digester

• Good performer across soil types

• Early to drill and early to harvest

A winter hybrid rye is performing well for a Norfolk seeking higher gas yields to supply an anaerobic digestor.

Tom Pearson says wholecrop hybrid rye is key to energy production on the Raynham Estate, near Fakenham. Mr Pearson manages 1500ha of the estate and the farm has a feedstock agreement to supply a 3.5-megawatt AD plant.

Wholecrop for biogas production is the biggest single market for hybrid rye in the UK. It accounts for about half of the 50,000ha crop area, according to bioenergy business consultants NNFCC.

The farm grew 140ha of winter hybrid rye SU Arvid this year. Supplied by Elsoms, it was drilled at 205 seeds/m² on 16 September 2022. The variety performed well with good early autumn vigour on both lighter sandy soils and heavier silty clay loam.

Rotational benefits

“We grow winter hybrid rye as part of a seven-year crop rotation,” says Mr Pearson, who also grows winter wheat, forage maize, sugar beet, spring barley, spring beans and winter oilseed rape.

“Given the importance of our feedstock supply agreement, we are always looking for new high gas yielding types. The arrival of SU Arvid on the 2021/22 Descriptive list gave us an excellent opportunity to trial a promising new variety two years ago.

Hybrid rye is early to drill and early to harvest in late June. “We don’t grow any second wheats on farm and see winter hybrid rye as a great fit in the rotation as a following crop to our first wheats – and as an entry into oilseed rape the following year.”

SU Arvid also has good standing ability, although Mr Pearson says he would always recommend a robust plant growth regulator programme as insurance, given that gathering lodged rye with a whole crop header can be challenging.

Nitrogen for the crop totalled 150kg/ha in two splits. It comprised 70kg/ha of liquid digestate applied in February followed by 80kg/ha of liquid nitrogen in late March.

Spray strategy

Mr Pearson chose a basic three-spray fungicide programme consisting of a strobilurin, then a tebuconazole followed by an SDHI-based spray. The hybrid rye responded well with just some early signs of yellow rust which the strobilurin kept at bay.

“Beyond that, there were no disease issues – and, at less than £90/ha for our fungicide treatments, it’s worth noting that hybrid rye is about half the cost of what we’d normally spend on a first wheat.”

The crop achieved overall fresh weight yields of 45t/ha adjusted to 35% dry matter – although on a couple of fields Mr Pearson recorded fresh weight yields of over 50t/ha equating to our best rye yields in over four years.

“Handling the majority of the farm’s agronomy myself, and having assessed other hybrid rye varieties in trials, I don’t see anything agronomically or economically better than SU Arvid as a wholecrop variety for biogas production right now.”