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This is an heirloom variety of rye (Secale cereale) that originally hails from Kainuu, Ristijärvi in Northeastern Finland. It has been cultivated for at least 100 years. We obtained it from Maatiainen, the Finnish Landrace Association, located in Helsinki. Rye is easier to grow than many other grains because it tolerates poorer soils and harsher cold conditions. It also grows taller and matures faster than wheat. While it's an ideal grain crop for small scale or subsistence farming contexts, it also works as an excellent great cool-season cover crop, functioning to scavenge excess nitrogen and add organic matter to the soil and suppress weeds.
Finnish rye varieties have been grown in North America since the mid-1600s. This rye performed excellently here in our hot, Mediterranean climate (who would suspect a Nordic variety would be so suited here?). This variety grows especially tall and produces great deal of straw, making it perfect for a cover crop use. Unlike modern cultivars of rye, the seed is easily released from the stalk, making non-mechanized/hand threshing for grain far easier.
"Winter" rye is typically sown in late summer and for spring maturation. However, here in Southern California, we direct seeded in late December and had a mature crop by early July. For cover crop use, consider planting later (up to late October), because if too much biomass accumulates, the crop can be difficult to manage later on.
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