Pushing Farming Beyond Organic

A closer look at revolutionary ideas that will shape the future of farming.

“What Dorn discovered at Rodale was a way to do organic no-till agriculture. The practice was developed by Jeff Moyer, the institute’s longtime farm director, who came up with an innovative way to combine the two farming systems. It began as many good ideas do—by accident…”

“As developed by Moyer and colleagues, there are four basic steps to organic no-till:

1. Protect the soil and keep down the weeds in a farm field by planting a winter-hardy cover crop in the fall, such as vetch, barley, wheat, rye, or oats.

2. When the cover crop reaches maturity in the spring, the farmer knocks it down with a roller-crimper.

3. The farmer plants a cash crop into the crimped cover crop with a no-till drill, usually at the same time as crimping (crimper in front of the tractor, drill pulled behind), and then the cash crop grows up through the crimped cover crop.

4. After harvest in the fall, the organic residue of both crops can be disked into the soil, if the farmer wants, as next year’s cover crop is planted. All together, the use of a cover crop and a roller-crimper creates a dense mat of organic material on the soil surface that smothers weeds while providing nutrients, shade, and moisture to the cash crop.

Dorn jumped at the idea. He thought it literally rolled the best ideas in agriculture together: organic production, no-till, and a positive energy balance (this method requires only two passes with a tractor in contrast to the ten or twelve needed in a conventional system). “


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