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Secale cereale (rye)

Rye is the eighth largest cereal crop in the world, most of which is grown in Europe for the production of rye bread, alcohol production and animal feed.
Field of rye

Field of rye (Secale cereale) (Photo: Bengt Littorin)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Secale cereale L.

Common name: 


Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation.


Rye grows best in temperate climates. It can survive cold winters and hot summers and can produce a decent yield in difficult soils.

Key Uses: 

Food, malting, fodder, fuel, glue making, thatching, mulching, papermaking.


Genus: Secale

About this species

Rye (Secale cereale) is an extremely hardy crop and can survive harsh conditions and difficult soils where wheat and barley struggle to grow. Rye is commonly grown in the fields of Northern and Eastern Europe where it can produce a good harvest despite the cold winters and hot dry summers of the region. Rye is considered to be a ‘secondary crop’ meaning that it first appeared as a weed growing alongside wheat and barley in farmers fields and then was domesticated to become a useful grain.

Today the majority of rye is cultivated to make rye bread, also known as pumpernickel, and the rest is used in alcohol production and animal feed. In Turkey, rye is often intercropped with wheat which, in addition to serving as insurance in case the wheat harvest fails, means the two crops can be harvested together to produce a wholesome, tasty flour.


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