May 12, 2006: Farmers everywhere can now
access the technical drawings for the no-till cover crop roller
developed by The Rodale Institute.
This implement is the centerpiece of an eight-region research
project testing its development in more sustainable crop production
systems. The one-pass mechanical cover kill and no-till planting
system offers fuel and input savings as these costs are trending
the plans now!
The roller is part of a one-pass approach that allows farmers
to control a soil-conserving cover crop and plant the next
season’s cash crop at the same time by mounting two
implements on the same tractor.
The system can be used in any farming approach to cut tractor
time, energy consumption and herbicide use. By using a no-till
planter, the system eliminates tillage. By using the roller
to push over and crimp the stems of a standing cover crop
that has grown over winter, the system provides weed control,
erosion suppression, moisture conservation, fertility enhancement,
carbon addition to the soil and an improved growing environment
for many crops.
At its highest level of use in organic farming, the “No-till
Plus” system is a no-till, no-spray maneuver that bundles
a suite of environmental and agricultural services into a
single pass. For conventional farmers the system drastically
reduces herbicide use.
By front-mounting the roller, it achieves its maximum impact
to kill standing cover crops without chemicals. The tool is
rugged and capable of being used long-term with virtually
no maintenance. Its relatively simple design should allow
adaptations in farm shops around the world to fit local conditions.
(For examples of various rollers see The
The work by The Institute and its collaborators is supported
by a lead grant from the National Resource Conservation Service
(NRCS) through its Conservation Innovation Grant award program.
The Institute is seeking additional collaborators to meet
the balance of its cash-match requirements for the $541,050
grant. An environmental organization which wishes to remain
anonymous with interest in sustainable agriculture recently
increased its contribution to $75,000 toward the matching
requirement, based on its support of the project objectives.
Other cash contributors thus far include the Wallace Genetic
Foundation, Inc.; the Toward Sustainability Foundation and
two private donors. In-kind contributions have come from each
of the seven collaborating educational institutions and their
cooperating farmers as well as I&J Manufacturing, Buckeye
Tractor Company and the local Berks Technical Institute.
The Institute invites further support from the wide array
of groups and individuals who want to see what the no-till
roller can do to improve watershed water quality, boost farm
income and create more sustainable options for innovative
here to help with the No-Till Plus roller project.
Prototype no-till rollers produced by I&J Manufacturing
of Gap, Pennsylvania, arrived at all seven sites in time for
use this spring. Collaborating researchers are paired with
one or more farmers in their regions. The teams combine farmer
experience and research expertise to accelerate local assessment
and adaptation of the no-till roller concept. For an overview
of the project and related stories about cover crops and no-till
farming check out our No-Till+ page.
Sharing field observations
Winter and spring conditions reported by the collaborators—
distributed coast to coast—vary widely. Researchers
in Mississippi report a dry winter with their rye showing
some drought stress by heading time. They couldn’t improve
moisture conditions over winter because Hurricane Katrina
knocked out their irrigation pumps.
If you need to ask a question—or share an insight—about
making one of these rollers, start at The
New Farm No Till+ Forum. This is an easy way to connect
via computer to others interested in talking about rollers
under four subjects. You can browse the posts by clicking
on the topical heading and post after you’ve registered.
Climbing prices for fuel and herbicides make this project
more timely than ever, according to Paul Hepperly, director
of training and research at the Institute. Research results
this season will help to sharpen the recommendations for use
of the roller and the whole system, as well as show the need
for more trials to find “best practices” in new
parts of the country.