I have been reading and researching the rye roller information
on newfarm.org and anywhere else I can find information on
the Internet. Have you calculated the necessary down-pressure
on each blade necessary to crush the stems of a rye cover
crop? I know this is going to vary with conditions, but any
general rules of thumb?
Here's my scenario, and what I'm going to try:
Last fall I seeded 120 pound per acre of rye into bean stubble.
I probably got a 90-percent stand that is about 5-feet tall
today. It’s in head with pollen starting to shake off.
We have a 15-foot Great Plains no-till (3-point, coulter cart).
On the back of the drill is an Unverferth rolling harrow that
is spring loaded for down-pressure. The harrow has helical
bars that impact the soil much like the one that you built.
Our exception is that the blades are serrated, forming a shallow
vee that is on a 6-inch rise and fall about 3/4 inch depth.
The rolling harrow diameter is approximately 12 inches, with
a blade every 4 or so inches.
As I understand the methodology, we are trying to "crimp"
the stem of the rye to prevent water movement. I will certainly
let you know if it works or not. Do you have any initial thoughts
Thanks for any reply or input.
I don't really know the pounds per square inch of pressure
we are exerting, but our roller (filled with water) must weigh
close to a ton. When it rides on the ground, it basically
sits on two blades that run its 10-foot 6-inch length and
are 3/8 of an inch thick. For most of the material we roll,
it isn't too much weight. The hitch has no down pressure,
only the weight of the roller floating on the ground.
I hope that information helps. I see no reason that what you
propose wouldn't work. I certainly would try it. Please let
me know if it works. I'm always interested in new ideas.
Thanks for the input. I'll try to get some more information
on the down pressure our unit has. If your unit weighs a ton,
I calculate the following:
If your bars were in a straight line, I could assume:
Two blades in contact would equal around 21 psi—not
really that much.
The picture shows the blades as helical, thus the contact
area is probably a little less at any given time, so the pressure
may be higher. At any rate, thanks for the input. I will report
back when I get a chance. I'm located in Northwest Ohio.
Have a good day.
Just a quick note on my drill experiment into rye: The drill
listed below did a decent job in crimping the rye in one pass
in the field; probably around a 70-percent knockdown. It broke
the rye down at the root crown, and some of the bunches were
also crimped further up the stalk. It is made up of 4 gangs,
so there are 3 "blank" spaces where they come together,
end-to-end. The rye that ran through that area was not touched.
Drilling the beans went east to west. Due to the lack of
total kill, we then used the drill in the north-south direction
as a roller, and used the coulter cart in the front to cut
the rye into 8-inch long sections. Not the best of practices,
but it probably simulates a buffalo rolling stalk chopper.
I really like the results. With this said, it would be easy
to construct a roller, place it onto an N-T drill, and have
a "one pass" machine.
This drilling took place June 6. By June 11, I had beans coming
out of the ground. We have been pounded with about 8 inches
of rain since Friday, June 11. My dad and brother no-tilled
some beans into bare ground, and if they didn't make it up
they're basically rotten.
Last night I saw that I still have some sprouting and necking
out of the dirt. In the past, my dirt turns into a parking
lot when a heavy beating rain hits it. I am truly amazed by
the "buffering" the rye does to the field. I do
have some drown-out spots, but the rest of the beans look
super. I had some late-plant corn, (planted June 8) that is
dead after all the rain and heat. The seeds germinated in
two days, then were drowned and cooked.
I am planning on building a 15-foot rye roller this winter
to be able to use on larger acreages and following the drill,
but the tool will be pulled by another tractor for versatility.
This would be my first year in transition, (if I continue
organic), and my dad's still on the fence. He's looking at
other venues such as clover seed production. From reading
NewFarm.org, and talking to a few other organic farmers, I
have the same story: washed out farm, herbicides not working,
soil in bad shape. Oh well, time will tell.
Thanks for the update. Your work sounds very interesting.
Do you have any photos you could email me? I'm very interested
in what you did, especially since it sounds like it’s
working. Please keep me posted.
I will snap some photos when I get a chance. I don't have
a digital camera, so it may be a few weeks to develop, and
scan. Have you thought of a roller that would work in place
of a cultivator—say, plant corn into crimped-down red
clover or other crop and when it grows back, roll it down
in between the rows, create a mulch layer, and give the corn
another boost? Just a thought; I've never seen farming done
this way before, but I'm pretty excited about this alternative
Dear Reader: We’ll
post a picture of Joe’s roller when it comes in and
will keep you apprised of his progress as he experiments
with alternatives to conventional agriculture and contemplates
organic transition. NF
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail
him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.