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

Will organic no-till work with row crops?

Posted September 1, 2005

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 Rodale Institue 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 readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

Is organic no-till a viable possibility in the near future for conventional row crops?

Michael Haggie

Dear Michael,

Thanks for the question and the interest in the whole concept of organic no-till. By conventional row crops, I take it to mean corn and soybeans or crops we grow like that. If that is your question, then I can answer by saying, yes. We have made great improvements in the organic no-till system over the past five years. The improvements have come in the form of better equipment to manage cover crops and to plant into them to establish the crop and suppress the weeds.

We are also working across the country to address the issues of cover crop selection and the related cultural practices to get the most out of them in terms of the system. Within a few months, a cover crop roller should be on the market. This is the tool we designed at The Rodale Institute and have written about in New Farm (see the No-Till + Page for more on the roller and no-till research). With this tool and some planter modifications, the system has been shown to have great success.

We are in the process of field testing the equipment in seven regions of the country to gain experience with different cover crops, different soils, different climates, and different farmers/managers. Within two years we expect to have that data to better support individuals like yourself to move in this direction. Please feel free to contact me with specific questions on our system or on how it might fit into your farming operation.



Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at