Cereal rye is the hardies of all cereals. It has a wider planting date than other cover crops which allows it to be planted later into the fall. The cereal rye also has an extensive rooting system that is excellent at preventing erosion and holding the soil in place. The roots provided by the rye increase nutrient cycling and allow the cereal rye to be excellent at capturing unused nitrogen and holding it for a long period of time if allowed to reach full plant growth. Cereal rye also increases the concentration of exchangeable potassium near the soil surface, by bringing the potassium up from the lower soil profile.
With the cereal rye growing form three to six feet in height, the amount of bio-mass left on the surface provides excellent weed suppression qualities. Cereal rye is being used extensively to control resistant weeds in the south that have become virtually impossible to control with chemical programs.
The blanket of bio-mass left on the surface not only provides weed suppression but is also very beneficial to the soil and the following cash crop. It protects the soil from wind and water erosion, provides a cushion barrier between the soil and the rain drops, and also helps disperse the weight of the equipment as it moves across the soil surface, thus helping reducing compaction.
Cereal rye works as a pest suppressor as well, by helping reduce root-knot nematodes and other harmful nematodes. In the spring time, if left actively growing the cereal rye can assist in drying out wet soils. However if terminated and allowed to fall down before planting the soils will struggle to dry out. So it is not uncommon to plant the cash crop then kill the cereal rye immediately after planting.
Cereal rye rates high in all categories when measuring benefits of a cover crop, with the exception of being able to produce nitrogen; however it is an excellent nitrogen scavenger.