By: Sun Butler Monsanto sent a work group to the Food Shuttle Farm last week for their annual volunteer event. After a quick tour we got down to work turning compost, mulching rows and crimping rye. Rye cover crop is an important part of no-till or conservation tillage. Rye and clover are planted in the Fall. Clover is a legume that puts nitrogen back into the soil. When the Rye approaches maturity, but before it sets seed it must be crimped in organic systems or sprayed with Roundup herbicide to kill the cover crop. Soybeans, corn, or in our case tomatoes, can be planted through the killed rye with no additional tillage. This greatly reduces the amount of bed preparation and leaves the rye straw in place to act as a mulch. Rye also releases a natural chemical to the soil called 'Diboa' that acts as a weed seed inhibitor.
No-till agriculture is a vital part of sustainable farming. It reduces use of fossil fuels, builds organic matter in the soil and reduces the need for additional herbicides. As the maker of Roundup, a broad-spectrum herbicide, and "Roundup Ready Soybeans," Monsanto has made important contributions to no-till research and development. No-till can also be used in organic systems by physically crimping the rye and relying on its natural herbicidal properties. So as we flailed away with shovels and our homemade crimpers, Monsanto and that Food Shuttle Farm had an important cultural exchange and meeting of the minds.