Flying Turnips Or Rye Into Corn

Flying Turnips Or Rye Into Corn

July 25, 2008

Crop residues like corn stalks provide good winter feed, but sometimes, adding turnips or cereal rye can make them even better.

Corn stalks are one of the best and least costly winter feeds, but once cattle finish eating the grain and husks, what remains isn't all that good.

Some growers have improved both the amount and quality of corn stalk grazing by flying turnip or rye seed onto standing corn in early August. When successful, turnip or rye plants provide extra grazing days and extra protein when corn stalks become poor quality. However, it's not all that easy to get a good stand of either turnips or rye to become productive in a growing corn field.


Several factors can limit success. Moisture can be limiting in dryland corn, but also difficult to manage in surface irrigated fields. Even under pivots, providing water for rye or turnips without slowing corn harvest takes planning.

Another problem is the density of the corn canopy. Irrigated fields can be especially thick, acting like weeds to prevent adequate light from reaching new seedlings. Chopping corn for silage or combining high moisture grain early helps.

Herbicide carryover also causes problems. Turnips are very sensitive and rye also is affected.

Lastly, consider wheel traffic at harvest. Turnips are damaged more than rye, but both lose stand if fields get muddy.

I do like improving corn stalks with rye or turnips, but if you try this, be aware of the challenges so you can take steps to overcome them.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

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A field of corn.