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

Can I roll my field of monster hairy vetch?

Posted June 15, 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.

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Dear Jeff,

We have a small field of hairy vetch that has gotten away from us due to too much rain. We were wondering about trying to roll it down and plant corn. Does Ron Rosmann still have a roller (35 miles away) or the Neely-Kenyon farm (55 miles)? Also, how critical is it to plant the same direction the crop is rolled? By the way, the field is about 11 acres and along a road. Any suggestions about how to handle the jungle would be appreciated.

Vic Madsen


Good Morning Vic,

I couldn’t say who actually has the roller on their farm at the moment. I know Kathleen Delate at Iowa State has control over it as the researcher I sent it to. I certainly think rolling the vetch will kill it, assuming it is in full bloom (and the thicker, the better). As far as planting in the same direction goes, it certainly helps. It isn’t quite as critical with vetch as it would be with rye, since the plant type is completely different. If you try it, let me know how it works. If it works great, along the road is right where you want it.