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Under Cover Farmers (videos)

While researching cover cropping, I came across the video above, featuring an explanation from the Rodale Institute (U.S.) of their “No Till Roller Crimper” which is used to lay down the cover crop in a no till farming environment.

Another video I uncovered (below) may be of interest to those pursuing permaculture practice in the larger scale farming environment. It is called “Under Cover Farmers” and investigates the cover cropping/no till farming practices of two or three primary producers on the U.S. side of the pacific. The results which they are experiencing are extremely encouraging and demonstrate the “mind shift” that is possible when conventional twentieth century farmers “get it” about the soil and it’s microbiology and then choose to farm complimentary to nature’s way. Practice begins to transition!

Those with a permaculture background will find value in the various principles and practices discovered by these farmers. It will remind us of the importance of key elements of permaculture practice in our own settings where cover cropping and no till activity is applied on a smaller scale, with a greater emphasis on perennials.


  1. Buz – the man who made these videos is currently on a nationwide mission, following farmers as they progress down this path of soil health, reducing chemical inputs and dependance on fossil fuels. If you go to
    there are a series of other videos from him and others detailing the movement that we’re involved in. For all those who visit this, we’re broadcasting a nationwide forum on 18 Feb to over 220 field offices around the country (USA). We are also looking into incorporating (no pun intended) permaculture techniques into broad acre management in our planning. I think we are on the beginnings of change in “industrial” agriculture, kick and fight as many may, you simply cannot argue that the current model is not sustainable.

  2. So it seems that we have all the tools needed for a change in all aspects of farming/ranching:

    1. Perennial agriculture and reforestation wherever possible.
    2. Paddock-shift/mob-grazing when working with livestock.
    3. Cover crop / roller-crimper on large-scale annual crops

    All of which can be done without any synthetic inputs, puts carbon back into the soil, improves soil life, and improves water-holding capacity (drought mitigation).

    Love it…

  3. VERY intersting! Seems like a step that is not too big for mainstream agriculture to take in years to come. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if you would think along the lines of Alan Savory or Joel Salatin and let catlle do the stomping and manuring of the cover crops. Would the cover crop outgrow your seeds or would that system work even better?

  4. If anyone could translate the yields from bushels to tonnes and show as subtitles this would help viewers outside US.

  5. I have watched the video ¨Undercover farmers¨ with a great interes! But, did I understand well that the system of using cover crop and no-till, allows monoculture farming?

    1. Anything allows for monoculture, but if you put different seeds in the seed planter in the rodale video(first one, real short), then you can mechanize polyculture too.

  6. Susi, to convert (corn) yields in bushels per acre to tons, divide by 7, in terms of pure biomass assume grain versus silage harvest.
    Farida, the point of this is still to maintain some type of monoculture but in a more diverse rotation, so instead of looking at the snapshot in time, look at the entire management system and the diversity contained therein. All too often we focus on implementing tools rather than looking at the holistic goal those tools are trying to bring us to (no till, cover crops, rolling the crops, etc). By shifting thinking to “where do i want to be” and then opening the toolbox of what’s available… and still being able to turn a profit, we can really start to shift how modern agriculture is implemented on a landscape level. This movement of soil health parallels many, many permaculture principles.

  7. This technique can be extremely useful as its a way to grow mulch material right where you need it without the extra costs, time and energy required to buy/bring it in from elsewhere, even if thats just from the same site. Its also a way to use green manures without having to till/incorporate them in and therefore not disturb the soil.

    It should be noted though that in the second video ‘under cover farmers’ they’re applying a system that isn’t organic and uses pesticides to kill the crops. The system they use is no-till, as they don’t till the soil to incorporate the cover crops but they spray them to kill them off. The organic version of this system is the organic no-till system where they roll or cut it down like in the 1st video.

    For appying this system on a smaller scale, like in a backyard, here’s a really simple tool that can be made to roll and crimp a cover crop…

    And here’s some more info on cover crop rolling in general… – overview of organic no-till – frequently asked questions about organic no-till – article from the Rodale institute about cover crop rolling. The Rodale institute have done a lot of research into cover crop rolling including a 3 year study comparing it to using black plastic. They’ve also experimented and documented the different techniques of killing off the cover crop by both rolling/crimping and cutting down the crop

  8. Another advantage of doing this growing system, that is worth noting, is that you can grow a mulch/cover crop over winter, for example by using cereal rye and vetch, which will keep the soil covered over winter while the vetch fixes nitrogen (when temprature allows), then come the spring you’ve grown some mulch ready to use on land that would have been dormant over winter otherwise. Plus you have exactly the right amount of mulch material for the piece of land you want to cover as it was grown there!

  9. Great.good to see them beginning to look ahead at no chemical inputs as imagine the improvement in microbe and soil function if they did not herbicide! They are moving towards mainstreaming Fukuoka.

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