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Breeding aims high with hybrid rye

Two recently-released rye varieties are bringing higher yields to the Prairies

Two new rye varieties, Bono and Guttino, were recently released by German seed company KWS — the world’s leading rye breeder.

Hybrid cars may be all the rage these days for their lower gas consumption, but it’s hybrid rye that’s fuelling excitement for producers and seed growers.

Two varieties that were recently released by German seed company KWS, the world’s leading rye breeder, are Bono and Guttino.

Bullish on Bono

As CEO of Regina-based FP Genetics, which licenses Bono from KWS, Rod Merryweather has seen impressive results from hybrid varieties.

“Bono is averaging 30 per cent higher yields than open pollinated rye,” said Merryweather.

Growers are also encouraged by the falling numbers for Bono which come in at 75 to100 points greater than open pollinated.

“That really excites millers because it means they can use more rye and less wheat and save money in the process.”

Another appeal of Bono is uniformity. “In a hybrid variety like Bono all the plants are the same, giving you more uniform growth and thus more uniform grain when you harvest it,” said Merryweather.

Uniformity makes it more likely that farmers can straight cut it and means the plants are shorter. As a result, there is better standability and less chance of lodging, leading to lower costs and higher quality.

Although uniformity and falling numbers are important, in the volatile world of farming one constant remains: It’s all about the yield.

“Bono will dominate the market in another year or two because of the yield it offers. It might cost you six dollars more per acre or the equivalent of one bushel, but if it gives you 10 more bushels per acre in yield, that’s a 10 to one return on investment. It’s really a no-brainer.”

Gushing over Guttino

Also earning accolades is Guttino, for a lot of the same reasons.

“It represents a huge step forward in yield, showing an improvement of 20 to 40 per cent over open pollinated rye,” said Will Van Roessel.

In addition to running his own seed business near Bow Island, Van Roessel is president of SeedNet, a group of 13 independent seed growers in southern Alberta.

Like Bono, the Guttino variety boasts much improved falling numbers.

“Not only are those numbers high to start with, they seem to hold a bit better when you get rain at harvest time, so it’s more likely that you can sell it into the milling market,” said Van Roessel.

And though also praising Guttino for its lodging resistance, Van Roessel agrees with conventional wisdom that yield is the bottom line.

“It’s just such an improvement over what was out there before. With other crops you might get a two to three per cent yield increase and marginal boost in protein; to have this massive yield hike along with a huge improvement in falling number and enhanced lodging is almost unheard of in new crop technology.”

While his own experience with Guttino is limited, he grew a small area recently with winter wheat under irrigated conditions and liked what he saw.

“It was interesting to watch as the rye really took off in the spring. By the time the winter wheat started growing the rye was six inches tall. I found Guttino was really competitive and we think it could wind up being a replacement for winter wheat rather than for conventional rye.”

They may each have their favorite, yet both men see a bright future for hybrids.

“Bono and other hybrid ryes will help us grow the demand for rye and create a substantial niche market for growers with great returns,” said Merryweather.

Sure, the hybrid car might get more press, but with results like this, the hybrid rye appeal won’t run out of gas anytime soon.

About the author


Geoff Geoff Geddes is a freelance agriculture and business writer based in Edmonton. Find him online at or email [email protected]

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