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A Powered Roller/Crimper for Walk-Behind Tractors to Terminate Cover Crops in Conservation Agriculture

Kornecki, Ted S.
Applied engineering in agriculture 2014 v.30 no.2 pp. 153-159
Secale cereale, agricultural conservation practice, cash crops, cover crops, growing season, large farms, mulches, organic production, production technology, rolling, rye, small farms, soil water, tractors, vegetables, water content
Roller/crimper implements have been used in large conservation farming systems to terminate cover crops near maturity and flatten them down to create a mulch through which cash crops can be planted directly into the cover residue. On small farms, tractors are usually small and less powerful relative to large farms. Daily field operations are often limited by tractor size. In vegetable organic production systems, field operations are often done one bed at a time. Typical rollers/crimpers can be too heavy for the available tractors and too large for the narrow beds that are common in these smaller vegetable systems. To address needs associated with conservation practices on small farms, a new roller/crimper powered by a tractor's PTO was developed for self-propelled, walk-behind tractors to allow small farms to successfully lay-down and terminate cover crops. This patented powered roller/crimper was tested in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to determine effectiveness of terminating a rye cover crop (Secale cereale L.). In 2010, two weeks after rolling, the average rye termination rate was 87.5% compared to 40.8% for non-rolled rye. In 2011 and 2012, two weeks after application of rolling treatments, rye termination rates exceeded 97% (99.9% in 2011 and 97.5% in 2012) which were high enough to plant cash crops into desiccated rye residue. Three weeks after rolling, termination rates averaged over rolling treatments in each growing season were 98.9%, 100.0%, and 99.9%, for 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Results showed that the powered roller/crimper successfully terminated rye and generated termination rates that were similar or higher compared to larger rollers. In 2010, there was evidence of significant soil moisture conservation, when one week after rolling rye, soil volumetric moisture content (VMC) for rolled/crimped rye residue ranged from 7.9% to 8.9% versus soil moisture for non-rolled control (standing rye) having a VMC of 5.0%. Similarly in 2012, one week after rolling, soil moisture under rolled rye reside was higher, from 10.6% to 11.3% VMC versus non-rolled rye (7.3%). Overall, the powered roller/crimper performed as well as larger and heavier rollers/crimpers and this concept can be applicable on small farms where limited power walk-behind tractors are used.