When Randy Raper was touring rural Paraguay in 1997, he probably didn’t realize that a device he saw might become a useful tool for no-tillers who want to better manage their cover crops.
Fast forward to 2008, and a few design changes later, and you have the latest version of a roller-crimper tool that’s quickly gaining a following from no-till producers looking for a way to better manage their cover crops. It’s even starting to show some promise as a tool that could be used on no-till organic farms as a way to kill a winter cover crop without herbicides.
The roller-crimper is, by itself, a pretty simple tool. A long roller has a series of evenly spaced crimping bars and is pulled across a field. The roller bars flatten the cover crop and damage it to the point that it dies in the field.
What’s left is an even, solid mat of dead cover crop that lays in the same direction. That allows no-till planters or strip-till equipment to work more effectively within the cover crop residue.
By laying down a thick mat of a cover crop, soil erosion is reduced, weeds are controlled and water is conserved for the cash crop.
“The original piece of equipment I saw in Paraguay was animal powered,” says Raper, an agricultural engineer at the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL) in Auburn, Ala. “Wayne Reeves brought the initial design back to the United States and took the first design to the…