Cover Crop Roller Design Holds Promise For No-Tillers

However, timing of control and planting in a single pass could limit adoption; hope lies in breeding cover crops that flower in time for traditional planting window.

The possibility of using rollers to reduce herbicide use isn't new, but advances are being made to improve the machines in ways that could make them practical for controlling no-till cover crops.

Rolling hairy vetch: farm manager for The Rodale Institute, controls a hairy vetch cover crop with a newly designed, front-mounted roller while a no-till planter drops seed corn behind the tractor.

Cover crop rolling is gaining visibility and credibility in tests by eight university/farmer research teams across the country. The test rollers were designed and contributed by The Rodale Institute (TRI), a Pennsylvania-based organization focused on organic agricultural research and education. The control achieved with the roller is comparable to a roller combined with a glyphosate application, according to TRI.

The Rodale crop rollers were delivered to state and federal cooperative research teams in Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, California and Iowa last spring. Funding for the program comes from grants and contributions from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and private donors. I&J Manufacturing in Gap, Pa., fabricated the models distributed to the research teams.

"The requirement is that each research leader partners with a farmer cooperator to adapt the rollers to local conditions and cover cropping systems," explains Jeff Moyer, TRI's farm manager. "Our goal is to gain more knowledge about the soil building and weed management effects…

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Ron Ross

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