ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

When do I over-sow my winter grains?

Posted March 23, 2004

 

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing the Farming Systems Trial, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our New Farm readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Dear Jeff,

When you sow winter wheat or rye at your farm and want to convert to red clover or other Trifolium pasture after the wheat or rye is off, when is the clover seeded into the grain?

Thanks,
Bill Cook


Hi, Bill,

Late winter is the perfect time to sow clover, alfalfa, or grass (rye, orchard, etc.) into wheat. This is when we seed all of our hay ground. Pick a morning when the ground is lightly frozen and spread the seed. We use a small electric seeder, but you can do it by hand. The thawing of the surface and then refreezing at night will actually pull the seed into the ground and plant the seed. We then harvest the grain when it is mature, bale the straw and have the hay coming up through the stubble.

Hope that helps,
Jeff


Dear Jeff,

That helps a lot. What I was particularly interested in is sowing both in the fall at grain sowing time, or perhaps that sort of thing is only done in the South. I wonder if both can be sown at the same time, or must the grain be at a certain height so as to avoid competition?

Thanks,
Bill


Dear Bill,

If you are planning on planting wheat in the fall and seeding the hay with it at that time, you may have some difficulty. Hay crops like timothy like fall planting (seeded with the wheat), but clover and alfalfa will germinate, then freeze out in the spring. That’s why we sow them in early spring as a frost seeding to give them a chance to be well rooted before the next winter. You could also plant the hay with oats as a spring seeding; however for me it seems these fields have a tendency to become weedier. Being perennial crops, they (the alfalfas and clovers) are slower to take root and grow than the wheat will be. If you can sow them in mid-August, they have a much better chance as well.

Good luck and keep me posted,
Jeff


Dear Jeff,

Thanks so much. It’s great to have someone with practical experience to write to. There are academics galore who have never seen the crops they are “experts” on.

Best again,
Bill Cook

 

Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org.