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
If your bars were in a straight line, I could assume:
Two blades in contact would equal around 21 psi—not really
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
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.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.