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

Should I use my harrow or rotary hoe to control the weeds in my corn?

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.

Got a question of your own? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

I have a harrow and a rotary hoe. I want to control the weeds in my corn field. I just finished planting my corn today; what would you recommend for me to use on the field and when?



Dear Dave,

Thanks for the question. I suggest you rotary hoe the field three to five days after planting, depending on the weather. Your goal here is to get the weeds when they are in the “white root stage.” I’d then wait seven to 10 days and do it again. At that point, the corn should be out of the ground and ahead of the weeds. You’ll then need to use a row-crop cultivator, of which there are many types. Now you’ll be trying to rip out or bury the weed seedlings that will most likely be starting to sprout. Try to keep the weeds smaller than the corn, and you’ll be just fine.

Keep in mind that cultivation is as much an art as it is a science. It takes time and practice to learn how to set the equipment to do the best job without damaging the crop. Every tool works differently, all soils work differently and each year the weather changes. Hey, that’s what makes it interesting.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes.