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

How late in the spring can I under-seed red clover into spring barley?

Posted April 6, 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.

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Dear Jeff,

How late in the spring can I under-seed red clover into spring barley, which I usually plant late April or early May. Is 5 to 6 pounds of clover seed per acre enough?

I was also wondering what would happen if I broadcast spring barley directly onto chopped corn stubble at the rate of 4 bushels per acre without any tillage. My rotation options are limited to oats or barley, and I have lots of barley that can be used for seed.

This field tends to be wet in early spring but then dries up nicely. The soil is a silty clay loam and located in the Finger Lakes.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Hi, Fred,

Given the fact that the frost has left the ground and the chances for it re-freezing are slight, I'd opt for planting anything (barley, oats, or clover) with a grain drill. This time of the year, while the soil is loose and moist, a conventional drill should work. By that I mean there is no need to use a no-till drill even though you would be no-tilling the crop into the corn stubble.

I suggest the drill since you really need to get good seed-to-soil contact to get the stand you want in corn stubble. I'd under-seed the clover with the drill as well; the traffic shouldn’t hurt the barley at all. I also think I'd bump the seeding rate up to 10 to 12 pounds of seed.

Good Luck, and thanks for the email,


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