Plans for no-till roller free for the downloading
Rugged yet elegant design lets crafters turn metal into dynamic tool for saving fuel, cutting chemicals and applying crop rotations.

By Greg Bowman

Photo by John Lee, USDA/NRCS Mississippi

Rodale no-till roller sources

Rollers made from the design developed by The Rodale Institute are available from I&J Manufacturing, Gap, Pennsylvania:

Please contact our farm manager Jeff Moyer as you find new manufacturers of these rollers so that we can add them to the list.


Edward Amos from Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi, rolls crimson clover on the farm of Brubena White near Port Gibson, Mississippi. He’s using a roller built on the centered chevron crimping blade design of The Rodale Institute, rear-mounted here to fit available equipment.

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 upwards.

Download 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 Roller Gallery.)

Project collaborators

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 farmers. Click 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.