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

Can I get more information on your corn and soybean variety trials?

Posted February 16, 2006

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,

I am interested in getting more information from you on variety trials for corn and soybeans. I am in western Pennsylvania in Butler County, and since I don't grow a lot corn or beans (about seven acres of each; my rotation is C, SB, O, W, H, H, on 44 tillable acres) I don't get to do many variety trials. I have been certified organic for three years. My yields and weed control in corn are acceptable (average 100-120 bu/ac with NC+ hybrids), but I am still not satisfied with my soybean weed control and yield (this year about 30 bu/ac with NC+ feed-grade variety).

I have Hazelton soils and plant on 38-inch rows. I start my weed control with two to three passes with a rotary hoe and then two to three passes with the cultivator (beans take more passes than corn). I am thinking about going to 30-inch rows. I cultivate with a Farmall M with a four-row mounted cultivator with 15.5 inch tires. I'm not sure if I can get it narrowed in enough for 30-inch rows. Also, do you think the 15.5 tire width would be a problem cultivating beans in the narrow rows? My soil nutrient levels are coming up; my deficiencies are in Ca and K.

I really enjoy reading your articles and think New Farm is the best organic site on the web. I hope to some day make it out to The Rodale Institute and check out the farm. I farmed conventionally for almost 20 years and have been organic for about eight years and I love it. I learn something new every day, and farming is a lot more fun and rewarding now. Keep up the good work and thanks in advance for your response.

Steve Misera
Butler, Pennsylvania

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the email and the interest in our work here at The Rodale Institute as well as New Farm. I'll have Rita Seidel (the research scientist working on this project) send you the results of her work. It sounds like your experiences track my own as well as most organic grain growers when it comes to managing weeds. Corn is a lot easier than soybeans. I'm going to see if Dave Wilson (our research scientist working on weed management in soybeans) can send you his data on time of planting and weed management. We've seen a lot fewer weeds under the same management when we delay planting of the soybeans.

As far as going to 30-inch rows, I would suggest doing it if your equipment will allow you to. It does improve weed management and increases the yield potential of both corn and beans. I don't think you'll have any problems with 15.5 tires; ours are 18.4 x 34s, and we're on 30-inch rows. (You could experience problems if you are on really steep hillsides and the tires tend to slide down against the row.)

Again, thanks for reading New Farm, and we hope we can continue to bring you information that is useful to your operation.



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