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Rye Reclaimed From Chaff Pile In Barn
When Chris Teachout couldn’t locate a commercial seed source for Balboa, an old Italian rye, he turned to an old chaff pile in the family barn. The seeds he found there have been multiplied in recent years, enough to seed an acre this past year.
“I remembered our family raising it for grain and straw in the 1980’s and earlier,” says Teachout. “I remembered it being high quality with a larger stem, early growth in the fall, and an early dormancy break in the spring.”
Teachout has tried different varieties of ryegrass in his cover crop program, but none matched Balboa. Finding the seed was the problem. Teachout always seemed to be a year behind. He heard of a seed company that carried it. They told him their supplier quit the year before and retained no inventory.
“I found a distillery in Indiana that advertised a whiskey made with it, but the older farmer who grew it had a neighbor combine it,” says Teachout. “The combine operator did it and a neighboring field of rye at the same time, and the two ryes were blended in the hopper.”
Then Teachout recalled the chaff pile that built up when bales were dropped off an elevator onto the barn floor. The chaff was still there, as was a small amount of seed, and it was still viable.
For the past 5 years, Teachout has been planting ever bigger plots. The Balboa is everything he remembers. Until he grew it out, his favorite had been Elbon.
“Elbon tests out at 13 percent protein, and Balboa runs over 15 percent,” says Teachout. “Elbon averages around 29 to 30 bushels per acre, and Balboa averages between 50 and 60 bushels per acre.”
Teachout admits Elbon, with its smaller seed, has more seeds per bushel. However, he sees other benefits for cover croppers from Balboa.
“It has a larger amount of biomass, which is why we grew it for straw,” says Teachout. “It produces clumps of stems versus Elbon and other newer ryes. Along with the bigger, coarser stem, Balboa roller/crimps better if you are terminating the cover crop.”
Teachout believes it’s fairly drought-tolerant as well. He planted into very dry soil last fall and had very poor germination. This past spring more germinated, and the rye took off. Unfortunately, his area was very dry this year as well. He got a crop, though not what he had hoped for based on previous years.
“We expected 50 bushels and got around 30,” says Teachout. “We’ll have enough for around 17 acres while keeping some in reserve. I figure with one more year under our belt, we should have enough seed to begin selling some. Our goal is to promote it and get it back into use.”

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #6