Rye Reaps Residue Rewards

Use this cover crop to improve both your no-till soil’s health and water holding capacity.

Curt Swartzmiller stands in front of the meeting room with a majestic 6-foot tall metal pole. The prop for his conservation speech is a driven ground tool.

Before coming home to farm with his brothers, Greg and Dan at Attica, Ohio, Swartzmiller used the pole to ground the truck against electrical problems in his high voltage electrical job. He quickly learned the tool wouldn’t budge when placed in the ground found in the farm’s headlands.

“In the fence rows, you could screw this in like butter,” he says. The differences in dirt proved to the Attica, Ohio, no-tiller that proper no-till soil management really pays.Rye-Reaps-Residue.jpg

To keep the soil in shape, the Swartzmillers seed rye in the fall, which fits in with their high residue farming system.

The rye works especially well with strip-tillage to help mellow the 10-inch-wide row area in the spring and allow the strip-till tool to pull easier in the fall. Operating as Diamond-S Farms, the Swartzmillers have been using rye for 20 years in their 2,300-acre operation in northern Ohio.

Drainage Vs. Tile

Swartzmiller is quick to point out that rye isn’t a substitute for good drainage, but that the crop works well on rented fields that haven’t been no-tilled. Another place where rye works well is with no-till soybeans following soybeans to provide needed residue over the winter.

When seeding rye after corn, the family shoots for a mid- to late-October seeding date. To ensure that the rye gets established on time in the…

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