(In nature) The soil is always protected from the direct action of sun, rain, and wind. In this care of soil strict economy is the watchword: nothing is lost.
Sir Albert Howard in An Agricultural Testament
We had cereal rye seeded on our cornfields this week as a cover crop. The corn is starting to die and that lets sunlight reach the ground between the rows, so the rye we spread on the ground will begin to grow.
Rye is a winter annual, it will grow this fall until it freezes, then it goes dormant through the winter and resumes growing in the spring. We’ll let it grow until we’re ready to plant soybeans, then kill it.
The rye provides the benefit Sir Albert Howard mentions above in the quote; it protects the soil from washing away in the rain or blowing away in the wind.
As the rye grows it is working beneath the soil, increasing the biological life in the soil and turning water, sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil into organic matter that will feed next year’s crop.
We have Andy Ambriole use his sprayer with an air seeder on it to apply the rye. The sprayer is tall enough it can drive through the corn without doing much damage.
Filling the sprayer with rye seed in the gray foggy mornings we’ve been having. The long white tubes go between the corn rows, ensuring the seed gets to the ground and doesn’t get caught in the corn leaves. The tubing all runs back to a seed hopper with a blower on it that blows the seed out through the tubing. Andy said he has 1500 feet of tubing on the sprayer. It’s 90 feet wide when unfolded.
From a distance you can just see the roof of the sprayer over the corn.
And up close you can’t see much more than that!
Andy’s using the rye seed that we just harvested that I wrote about here.
By next spring we hope the field looks like this:
Killing Rye in the Spring
And once we kill it and plant soybeans in it, like this:
Soybeans Coming Up Through Rye
Now we just wait for the rye to do its work until next spring.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
Wendell Berry, X