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

When is the best time to roll rye for a good kill?

Posted September 14, 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,

Killing winter rye with the crop roller has met with mixed success by the three parties with whom I have conferred. At what point in the growth cycle can one be assured that the rye will be killed? What are you using for a backup in the event a good kill is not obtained?

Eugene Moore

Dear Eugene,

The experience you discuss is about what I hear from growers across the country. In general, the lack of success in rye kill is directly related to the grower’s lack of patience—that is, they rolled too early. So your question “at what point in the growth cycle should you roll” is a very good one. I wait until the rye is in full bloom, with pollen moving freely across the field. At that point, the rye should kill and stay down. As a backup plan, I plant on 30-inch rows and can cultivate one time late, just before layby. This is an operation of last resort and rarely needed.