Rye (Secale cereale) is a grass grown extensively as a grain and forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe (Triticeae) and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskies, some vodkas, and animal fodder. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries, or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats.
Claims of much earlier cultivation of rye, at the Epipalaeolithic site of Tell Abu Hureyra in the Euphrates valley of northern Syria, remain controversial. Critics point to inconsistencies in the radiocarbon dates, and identifications based solely on grain, rather than on chaff.
Winter rye is any breed of rye planted in the fall to provide ground cover for the winter. It actually grows during any warmer days of the winter, when sunlight temporarily brings the plant to above freezing, even while there is still general snow cover. It can be used to prevent the growth of winter-hardy weeds, and can either be harvested as a bonus crop, or tilled directly into the ground in spring to provide more organic matter for the next summer's crop. It is sometimes used in winter gardens and is a very common nurse crop.
|Top Ten Rye Producers — 2005|
(million metric ton)
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Rye is grown primarily in Eastern, Central and Northern Europe. Main rye belt stretches from northern Germany through Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia into central and northern Russia. Rye is also grown in North America (Canada and the USA), in South America (Argentina), in Turkey, in Kazakstan and in northern China.
Production levels of rye are falling in most of the producing nations due to falling demand. For instance, production of rye in Russia fell from 13.9 million tons in 1992 to just 3.4 Mt in 2005. Corresponding figures for other countries are as follows: Poland - 5.9 Mt in 1992 and 3.4 Mt in 2005; Germany - 3.3 Mt & 2.8 Mt; Belarus - 3.1 Mt & 1.2 Mt; China - 1.7 Mt & 0.6 Mt; Kazakhstan - 0.6 Mt & 0.02 Mt.
Most of rye is consumed locally, and is exported only to neighbouring countries, but not worldwide.
Some other uses of rye include rye whiskey and use as an alternative medicine in a liquid form, known as rye extract. Often marketed as Oralmat, rye extract is a liquid obtained from rye and similar to that extracted from wheatgrass. Its benefits are said to include a strengthened immune system, increased energy levels and relief from allergies, but there is no clinical evidence for its efficacy.
Rye straw is used to make corn dollies.