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 NewFarm.org readers … and
we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.
Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:
I hope you and your staff are doing well. We have emailed
each other in the past regarding our "organic no-till"
here for more), and I have appreciated your thoughtful
insights. Our 2004 research plots were not as dynamic as in
2003, but we still learned valuable lessons for the coming
years. I am always eager to read your monthly column to see
how your No-till Plus research is progressing as well. With
our past experiences and devoted interest in organic no-till,
we are requesting that you please consider us for your organic
No-till Plus collaborative field testing funded through the
NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant.
My parents, David and Rita Smith, farm 320 acres in Southeast
Iowa, which have been certified organic since the mid 1980s.
Their crop rotation consists of small grains, hay, corn, and
soybeans, which are partially used in supporting their rotationally
grazed cattle, chickens, and pigs. Southeast Iowa has a unique
number of communities where a large majority of the people
are quite interested in sustainable agriculture and support
the local organic producers. In the past, farm tours, field
trials, farmers markets, CSAs, presentations, conferences,
etc. relating to sustainable agriculture have been well attended.
It is this type of energy which is needed to spawn new thinking,
not only in Iowa but throughout the entire U.S. In my opinion,
I believe we are an ideal site for the extension of the No-till
Plus grant. Thanks in advance for your consideration!
Dan and Sheila
David and Rita Smith
Thanks for writing again. Sorry to hear that your plots in
2004 were not as good as 2003, but that seems to be the case
when we push the biology of the sytem hard and the weather
doesn't cooperate. We no-tilled corn, soybeans, rye, and pumpkins
in 2004. I've been playing with modifications on my planter
this year, so some fields look great and other not as good.
The biggest problem I had was plant populations in corn fields.
I think I solved the problem by adding weight to the roller
and the planter and by removing the Yetter residue managers
I had on the front of the planter. We'll see in 2005.
As far as the grant goes, we'll be working with area coordinators
across the country to actually set up the on-farm research
plots. In Iowa, it will be Dr. Kathleen Delate from Iowa State
(click here fore
more on Kathleen Delate). We're in the process of collecting
potential farms to work on and the response has been overwhelming.
What we hope to do is select the farms that best fit our criteria,
then keep all the farms that have volunteered up to speed
or in the loop on our progress. That way we can magnify our
efforts and collect ideas from a larger group of practitioners.
We plan on collecting our criteria and selecting our cooperating
farms over the next two months. Your farm certainly will be
under consideration. If it's not selected, it won't be because
it's not of interest; it’s just that we only have enough
dollars for 10 farms from across the whole country.
I always enjoy hearing from you about your projects. Are
you still planning on plowing your hay, or are you trying
to manage it no-till? I really don't have an issue with some
plowing. I think that as organic farmers we won't be able
to get away from it completely. But if we can reduce it plus
all the cultivation on row crops, we will be better off.
Thanks for the follow-up information! We would be happy to
participate in any way possible, as I think we are on the
verge of a big improvement for sustainable agriculture, rural
economic restoration, and the environment. With regard to
managing the hay, we have not been able to find an approach
that does not involve tillage. We are currently chisel plowing,
disking, and field cultivating. However, I have tossed the
idea of using a rotovator, i.e. Howard, for swallow tillage
(2 - 3"). By opening the gates on the back of the rotovator,
this allows the green matter to fall lastly on top of the
dirt and create a modified cover. And ultimately, one tillage
pass is better than three or four...more equipment, horsepower,
fuel consumption, labor, soil organic matter oxidation, disruption
of the macro- and micro-organisms, etc. Plus, I agree with
your comment regarding tillage; if we only have to till the
ground once every four to six years (depending on the crop
rotation), then we are definitely still building sustainable,
productive, and healthy soil.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail
him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.