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

Can I no-till into 12-year-old CRP weed infested fields?

Posted March 9, 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? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

Is it possible to no-till/crimp/plant into 12-year-old CRP [Conservation Reserve Program] land with lots of quack grass and every other weed imaginable?

Bill Konkoly

Dear Bill,

Not without lots of herbicide. Let me explain what I mean.

Our roller is really designed to work in combination with cover crops—specific cover crops that are “winter annuals.” These are crops like hairy vetch, rye, Austrian winter pea, wheat, barley, etc. And they are all crops that are generally planted in the fall, live through the winter, thrive in spring, and finally die back in summer and drop their seeds. What our roller does is kill these crops early—once they have physiologically reproduced, but before the seeds are ripe. So, in effect, we are working with nature to better time an event that will happen naturally to suit our need to grow a crop and protect it from weed pressure. Now, as for weeds or perennial plants, our roller really won't do much to kill them. What will happen is that the roller will physically knock them down, the planter will go through the mat, and then the weeds will grow back and choke out the crop. That is why I said you'd need herbicide to kill the weeds.

In a conventional no-till system, we use herbicides to replace tillage to manage weeds. With our system, we use cover crops to replace tillage or herbicides. Hope that information helps.

Good Luck,