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Rye Termination by Different Rollers/Crimpers Developed for No-Till Small-Scale Farms

Ted S. Kornecki
Applied engineering in agriculture 2015 v.31 no.6 pp. 849-856
biomass, cash crops, cover crops, developmental stages, energy, farms, field experimentation, growing season, mulches, no-tillage, planting, rolling, rye, soil water, tractors, vegetables, water content, weather, Southeastern United States
The expansion of locally grown fresh food by small vegetable farms must be associated with sustainable practices that include no-till systems with cover crops. In the Southern United States, the recommended time to plant cash crops into residue cover is typically three weeks after terminating the cover crop to minimize competition for resources between cover and cash crops. Rolling technology has been used to manage cover crops, and small-scale producers need rollers compatible with small tractors already used on farms. To address this need, a field experiment was conducted in 2012, 2013, and 2014 to determine the effectiveness of one commercial (curved) and two experimental rollers/crimpers (powered and two-stage) designed for walk-behind tractors. Rollers were operated at two speeds and rye was rolled one, two, and three times. Rye termination rates were evaluated one, two, and three weeks after rolling. In 2012, three weeks after rolling, all rollers generated similar termination rates (from 98.6% to 99.9%) In 2013, rye termination rates by all rollers were lower compared to 2012 due to higher rye biomass (17%), higher (14%) average soil volumetric moisture content (VMC) during the three week evaluation period (10% in 2012), and in 2013 rye was terminated at an earlier growth stage. In 2013, three weeks after rolling, higher rye termination rates were obtained by the powered roller (89.3%) and the two stage roller (86.6%), compared to the commercial roller (77.1%). In 2014, three weeks after rolling, rye termination rates were near 100% for all three roller types. In three growing seasons, at two weeks after rolling, rolling/crimping three times generated increased termination rates compared to rolling/crimping once or twice. Increasing operating speed generated slightly higher termination rates one week after rolling (2012 and 2014), whereas in 2013 these rates were higher one, two, and three weeks after rolling. In 2012, one week after rolling only, VMC for standing rye was significantly lower (5.4%) vs. 8.5% for rolled rye residue. In 2013, during three weeks of evaluation, an average VMC for standing rye was 9.1%, vs. higher VMC (14.1%) for all rolling treatments. In 2014 one and two weeks after rolling, average VMC was 16.9% for rolled residue vs.13.6% for standing rye. VMC results from this study indicate that rolled residue better conserved soil moisture by superior soil coverage, due to a mulch effect. Overall, the experimental rollers/crimpers generated higher rye termination rates at one and two weeks after rolling, compared with the commercial roller. This can be applicable if weather delays cash crop planting thereby preventing the recommended three weeks between terminating cover crop and planting cash crop. These higher rates are most likely related to greater dynamic crimping forces of the experimental rollers, where crimping energy is released from springs, rather than relying on the limited weight of the roller as with the commercial roller.