Rolling Cover Crops Gives Mixed Results

The idea has plenty of potential, but there are still some bugs to be worked out.

Will a cover crop residue roller – considered essential in South American no-till fields – add value in the northern Great Plains? Dr. Dwayne Beck is studying that question under environmental conditions that are the equivalent of being several hundred miles north of tropical Paraguay and Brazil.

The manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm at Pierre, S. D., which is located in the semi-arid central area of the state, built a prototype roller last year. It is patterned after knife rollers that were demonstrated at past National No-Till Conferences by well-known South American agronomist Rolf Derpsch.

About 10 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, Beck’s roller was built from angle irons welded to circular plate steel in the research farm’s shop. The roller will eventually become the center section of a 30-foot wide tool for rolling cover crops. He compared results with the roller in several cover crop and residue situations.

1. Winter Wheat (cover crop) Before Soybeans

The results were not conclusive.

“By the time the wheat would have been tall enough to roll, it would have been too late to no-till soybeans,” explains Beck. “So we had to plant beans first and roll the wheat later. But by the time we got in, the beans had already been hurt by competition from the cover crop and it still wasn’t far enough along to go down and stay down.”

He believes the concept is good if you have a longer growing season such as in equatorial South…

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Ron Ross

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