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2021 Projects: Winter Cereals as Double Crops in Corn or Sorghum Rotations

How Much Nitrogen Do We Need At Green-Up of Winter Cereals?

Due to the drought in 2012, more farmers became interested in growing winter cereals as double crop, benefiting from the protection offered by the cereal as cover crop and harvesting the cereal as forage in May to increase per acre crop yields. Properly managed, these crops have supplied, on average, 2 tons of dry matter per acre while in some fields in 2012 and 2013 we measured up to 4 tons of dry matter of high quality forage from winter cereals planted after corn silage, even with little growth in the fall. Our two main nutrient management questions with growing winter cereals for forage is: (1) how much N do we need at green-up for optimal economic yield, and (2) how does planting date, fall N availability and spring N addition influence fall growth and N uptake and spring performance? For the first question, on-farm trials (4 times replicated) were implemented in 2013-2016 to quantify crop response to N addition (5 N rates at greenup: 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 lbs N/acre). In total, 63 on-farm trials were established and harvested these past three years. For the second question, 4 on-farm trials were established from 2012-2014 to see how planting date (before or after 9/20) and available N in both the fall and spring (5 N rates at planting and green-up: 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 lbs N/acre) influenced N uptake and growth in the fall and spring performance. Additional work is ongoing to determine what drives differences in optimum N rate across sites.

If you are interested in participating, contact Quirine Ketterings ( or 607-255-3061). You can also write to: Quirine Ketterings, Nutrient Management Spear Program, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, 323 Morrison Hall, Ithaca NY 14853.


    Our goals are to determine the N need of winter cereals (cereal rye, triticale, winter wheat) seeded after corn silage harvest and harvested for forage prior to corn planting (at flag leaf stage) in May, and to determine how triticale responds to planting date and N availability in both the fall and spring (N uptake, growth and quality).

Funding Sources

This project has been sponsored by grants from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (NESARE), and federal formula funds.

Additional Resources

Trial Setup Protocols

Farmer Impact Stories

Fact Sheets

Extension Articles

Journal Articles

  • Lyons, S.E., Q.M. Ketterings, S. Ort, G.S. Godwin, S.N. Swink, K.J. Czymmek, D.J. Cherney, J.H. Cherney, J.J. Meisinger, and T.F. Kilcer (2019). Nitrogen management for forage winter cereals in the Northeastern USA. Soil Science Society of America Journal (in press).
  • Lyons, S.E., Z. Tang, J. Booth, and Q.M. Ketterings (2018). Nitrogen response models for winter cereals grown for forage. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 1-14. doi:10.1111/jac.12310.
  • Lyons, S.E., Q.M. Ketterings, G. Godwin, J.H. Cherney, K.J. Czymmek, and T. Kilcer (2018). Spring N management is important for triticale forage yield and quality. Agronomy Journal 110:1-8. doi:10.2134/agronj2018.01.0041.
  • Lyons, S., Q.M. Ketterings, G. Godwin, J. Cherney, and T. Kilcer (2017). Fall planting date can impact establishment and nitrogen uptake of winter cereals. Agronomy Journal doi:10.2134/agronj2016.10.0620.
  •  Ketterings Q.M., S.N. Swink, S.W. Duiker, K.J. Czymmek, D.B. Beegle, and W.J. Cox (2015). Review and interpretation: integrating cover crops for N management in corn systems on northeastern dairies. Agronomy Journal 107: 1365-1376. doi:10.2134/agronj14.0385.
  • Ketterings, Q.M., S. Ort, S.N. Swink, G. Godwin, T. Kilcer, J. Miller, W. Verbeten, and K.J. Czymmek (2015). Winter cereals as double crops in corn rotations on New York dairy farms. Journal of Agricultural Science –DOI: 10.5539.
  • Long, E., Q.M. Ketterings and K.J. Czymmek (2013). Survey of cover crop use on New York dairy farms. Crop Management, DOI:10.1094/CM-2013-0019-RS.