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

What's the best way to overseed forage radish into soybeans?

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 NewFarm.org 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,

What can you tell me about overseeding forage radish into soybeans?

Ellen
Bally PA


Dear Ellen,

We’re looking for winter cover crops that can suck up soil fertility left after the growing season, hold soil to prevent winter erosion and suppress weeds to allow no-till planting in the spring. Steve Groff has done lots of work with forage radish at his farm in Lancaster County (www.cedarmeadowfarm.com) and we want to see what happens up here. We’re using his seed this year.

Overseeding on August 22, before soybean leaves fall, gave us good seed-soil contact after the first rain. Any leaves that fall will help to mulch the young seedlings, which are about 6 inches long by now. Our beans our still growing, so we’ll see how the radish plants fare through the field traffic of harvest.

Implement-wise, out set-up is an older spray rig redeemed for cover-crop seeding use. Shortly after the Hagie 8540 (www.hagie.com) was introduced, it became mandatory for spray applicators to be housed in cabs if the chemical release zone was in front of the units. These “high-boy” type units are available for a good price used, and are perfect for running our Herd Sure-Feed Broadcaster (Model I-92) www.herdseeder.com/i92.php.

An electric motor with a rheostat controls the speed of the seeder’s broadcasting spinner (determining how far the seed goes), while the seeder’s gate opening varies to control the rate of the seed flow (determining how much seed is being broadcast). These two variables are balanced with tractor speed to determine how much seed goes on per acre.

We put in a portion of our seed and do a test pass, then check to see if the amount of seed applied on the plot is giving about the rate we want to end up with.

Jeff