By Rossie Izlar Organic farmers have to make hard choices between protecting soil from erosion and controlling weeds. For example. Here are two more 2% Solutions that I wrote, one about farming and one about an olive ranch: Organic No-Till Farming Rodale Institute, north. Hairy vetch may be the key to reducing tillage in organic farming, at least in the short term. Martin Entz, a professor and agriculture systems.


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What is “Organic No-till,” and Is It Practical?

Detail of a organic no till farming, the key piece of equipment in an organic no-till farming system. This was important because, by remaining attached to their roots, the dead vetch became a new type of cover crop—albeit a dead one.

Normally cover crops are harvested, composted, and applied to the field later in the year. This was good because it meant that after a pass of the no-till drill in the spring—to plant the seeds of the cash crop—the layer of dead vetch would suppress any weed that tried to grow.

Organic No-Till – Organic Agriculture

Most weeds do not have the strength or stamina to push their way up through a layer of organic material. No chemicals needed; no turning the soil needed.

However, no mechanical piece of equipment existed that could do the job of crimping the cover organic no till farming and driving a pickup truck through a whole field for the task would be impractical.

So, Moyer took the initiative and, after lots of trial and error, he and his colleague John Brubaker settled on a design for what they call a roller-crimper—a hollow metal cylinder to which shallow metal ribs have been welded in a chevron design like tractor tires.

Organic No-till

The weight of the roller-crimper can be adjusted by adding or removing water from the hollow cylinder. As developed by Moyer and others over the subsequent years, there are four basic steps to organic no-till: Organic no-till offers a wealth of benefits.

The decomposing cover crop builds soil and substantially reduces erosion. The roller-crimper organic no till farming mounted in front of a tractor and as it rolls along through a field it crimps the cover crop, breaking the plant stalks and organic no till farming it.


The weight of the crimper can be adjusted by adding or subtracting water into the cylinder in order to achieve the desired effect. As organic no till farming by Moyer and others, there are four basic steps to organic no-till: 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.

Voila, the holy grail!


The many benefits include: Better yet, if the tractor is run on farm-produced biodiesel or pulled by horses, it eliminates dependence on fossil organic no till farming, creating a positive energy balance. The advantages far outweigh the downsides, however, which is why the practice is spreading rapidly.

According to Moyer, there are now hundreds of roller-crimpers at work on hundreds of farms and research stations across the nation.

What is “Organic No-till,” and Is It Practical? - eXtension

In contrast, organic methods sequester carbon by improving biological life in the soil. When combined with no-till, according to data, the system has the potential to sequester lbs of carbon per organic no till farming per year — pulled directly from the atmosphere.

McEvoy Olive Ranch, near Petaluma, northern California Can the carbon content of soil be doubled in less than ten years? This sudangrass cover crop, planted in July on Cape Cod, MA, winter-killed to form an in situ mulch that suppressed winter weed growth.

This photo was taken in February, at which time common chickweed had begun to cover unmulched fallow beds. Although continuous organic no-till organic no till farming not yet appear feasible, significant opportunities exist to reduce tillage in organic production, thereby conserving soil organic matter and soil quality, and possibly improving weed management.

  • Organic No-till | Rodale Institute
  • Organic No-till | The carbon pilgrim
  • Organic No-Till: Farming like the Earth Matters | Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Two Percent Solutions for the Planet
  • Organic No-Till

Within this context, no-till cover crop management and vegetable planting can be effective tactics when used at certain stages of a crop rotation. By minimizing soil disturbance and exposure of weed seeds to light, rolling or mowing a cover crop rather than tilling it in helps to close the niche for annual weeds between a cover crop and the subsequent vegetable.

Furthermore, surface residues of allelopathic cover crops like rye can maintain a shallow, weed-suppressive zone in the top inch or so of soil for some weeks. Larger seeded crops like beans, peas, and sweet corn, and especially transplanted vegetables, are quite tolerant to the allelopathic organic no till farming hence the cover crop mulch acts to some degree as a selective herbicide.

Transplanted tomatoes are especially tolerant to rye allelopathy, and respond positively to substances released by hairy vetch residues.