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

How can I get no-till soybeans started?

Posted May 11, 2007

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,

I wish to plant soybeans via no-till on a farm that hasn’t been in production for three years. What recommendations do you have for dealing with the standing weeds so that I can plant through them and I get some post-emergent weed control? Would it be best just to roll everything down or bush-hog them? What about light discing?

Thanks for your help
Reg Rogan
New York


Dear Reg,

Here is my suggestion based on the information you gave me: In order to establish soybeans as an organic crop, you will need to either use tillage to help you manage weeds or use heavy cover crops of winter annuals that can be rolled and crimped. The roller technology will only work when used in a system that has cover crops as part of the design. If there are weeds on the soil surface as you describe, tillage will be needed to create an appropriate seed bed to get the crop started and get you off on the right foot towards a proper weed management strategy. Even chopping the weeds and then no-tilling into it probably will not give your soybean seeds the start they need. I suggest you till the soil for this season, then, if you’d like to work on an organic no-till system, concentrate on getting your cover crops established in late summer or early fall for rolling next year.