These are exciting times!
Those were the sentiments of a group of researchers and farmers who met during the first week of March at The Rodale Institute’s farm in southeastern Pennsylvania to initiate plans for further research into Organic No-Till.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager

No-till Tech

In two weeks we’ll be putting up a no-till web page in order to share all the information we’ve gathered to date, including profiles of our participating farmers.

We’ll also be establishing a No-till Forum for all the folks who had expressed interest in participating in the project—there were more than 150 of you—and for anyone interested in offering their comments about this important project.

Stay tuned!

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

Jeff's email:

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530


March 17, 2005: Many of you have written to me over the past several months and asked me to keep you posted on the work we are doing related to organic no-till. If you were reading The New Farm back in October of 2004 you already know that the Institute received a grant from the NRCS, under their Conservation Innovation Grant Program, to further explore our cover crop roller system by conducting on-farm research across the country.

We have pulled together a dynamic group of folks to help us with this work, many of whom were on-hand for this meeting. Here is a list of the people involved: from Virginia we have Dr. Ron Morse and Paul Davis; from Georgia we have Dr. Sharad Phatak, Rick Reed, Mike Nugent and Mark Vickers; from Iowa we have Dr. Kathleen Delate; from Michigan we have Dr. Dale Mutch, Pat Sheridan and Jim Kratz; from Mississippi we have Dr. Seth Dabney and Perrin Grissom; from North Dakota we have Dr. Steve Zwinger; from Pennsylvania we have Dave Wilson, Steve Groff, Kyle Henninger, and Kirby Reichert; and from California we Dr. Jeff Mitchell and Patrick O’Neil. We also have a great list of advisors for the project, including Dr. Andy McGuire from WSU in Washington, Dr. John Teasdale of USDA-ARS in Maryland, Dr. Bill Curran from PSU in Pennsylvania, and Dr. Wayne Reeves and Dr. Harry Shomberg of USDA-ARS in Georgia. There will be others that I know will join this illustrious group as the project begins to unfold, but I thought you might want to know who is currently involved.

Each of these folks brings to the project an interest in using cover crops as a management tool in no-till systems. Some of the farmers are conventional in that they currently use herbicides to control weeds. Some are certified organic. But they all see the value in not performing annual tillage to establish crops and in using cover crops to regenerate the soil. Through this diversified management scenario we hope to gain valuable information on how we can move this technology forward and out onto your farm. The concept of eliminating tillage within our rotations and still getting our main crops established and managing weeds at the same time is certainly the way of the future.

The meeting started in the middle of a heavy snowstorm (I realize the word heavy is relative but keep in mind where we’re at on the map). Even so, folks showed up on time from across the country and ready to go to work. We had to rush around and find some alternative meeting spaces since the roads to The Institute weren’t plowed in time for an early morning start. That wasn’t going to stop this group. We grabbed a room at the hotel where everyone was staying and dug right in. Each of us gave a brief introduction and description of our work. We talked about the cover crop roller we designed and built here at the Institute and how we hope this project will transform the concepts of no-till in relation to using cover crops.

Within this project we’ll be growing cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, direct-seeded vegetables, transplanted vegetables and who knows what else. And we’ll be planting them into many different cover crops based in different parts of the country.

The first step for us was to design a data collection system that will allow us to track the use of the cover crops and the roller/crimper. We know how the system works here at our farm, but we need to see if other managers can have the same success that we have had. We’ll be tracking and documenting information on the cover crops and their performance, the main crops and their response to the system, the weeds and the system's ability to keep them under control, and of course the roller/crimper to determine it’s usefulness to the system.

The next steps will be to get AutoCAD drawings made of our roller/crimper so we can build more, and then find an equipment manufacturer to actually build the units. At the same time we’ll be establishing our cover crops to plant into next spring. The actual cover crop will be determined by the individual participants, based on what's most suitable to their area.

I hope you’ll follow along as we learn more about how to use cover crops to reduce tillage and manage weeds. If you haven’t seen the roller I’m talking about we have a nice slide show here on New Farm you can look at. If you have ideas or comments on systems you’ve tried, let me know and I’ll pass the information on to the rest of the group. It may just be the key one of us needs to make the system work for a particular crop.

Well, we’re off and running with this one. I’ll be keeping you all up to date as the project moves forward.

Organic No-Till ----- These are exciting times!

From one farm to another,