No Till + quick wrap
Where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Compiled by Dan Sullivan
March 15, 2007

 

SOUTHEAST

Georgia

2006 Review
Cover(s):  
Rye.
Cash crop(s):  
Peanuts.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 
Adequate.
Weed management used:  
Herbicide applied mid season.
Weed control assessment:  
Adequate.
Yields assessment:  
Yield figure and rating - 3003 pounds/ac (fair).
Comments: Drought contributed to weed pressure. Test plot's location at end of pivot where watering is uneven may have adversely affected yield.
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Rye and clover in the field now.
Cash crop(s):  
Peanuts.
Target roll/ plant date(s):  
May.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
No changes planned.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
Need suitable size roller.

 

MIDWEST

Iowa


Rolling rye at the Rosmann farm.

2006 Review
Cover(s):  

Winter wheat/winter pea, winter rye/hairy vetch.

Cash crop(s):  
Corn, soybeans, tomatoes.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Poor (rolled down fine, but came right back).

Weed management used:  
None in the corn and soybeans. Hand-weeded a few hairy vetch re-growth and placed hay mulch on top of bare areas. But basically, a farmer wouldn't have needed to do anything.
Weed control assessment:  
Really not bad; we are obsessed about weeds so wanted it pristine, but an overall scale would rate it 15 percent covered.
Yields assessment:  

Tomatoes—excellent (400,000 'Roma' fruit per acre); corn and beans—poor (90 bu/ac and 15 bu/acre, respectively).

Comments: Will repeat at some locations in 2007. Need rain or irrigation. When the rains stopped (June; 3 inches below normal), the crop did not compete well with the cover crop (both dead and living cover crops).
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Winter wheat/winter pea, winter rye/hairy vetch.
Cash crop(s):  
Corn and soybeans--May 15; tomatoes--June 1.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
Planted November 1; to be rolled May 25.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
Same methods as 2006.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable: Moisture!

Michigan

2006 Review
Cover(s):  

Vetch, rye.

Cash crop(s):  
Soybeans.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Mostly good to excellent (some plots required replanting due to heavy mulch residue and poor seed-to-soil contact).

Weed management used:  
Rolled mulch only.
Weed control assessment:  
Varied from poor to excellent.
Yields assessment:  

Mostly excellent (yields higher—up to 38 bu/ac—in plots where hairy vetch did not create an excessive mulch mat. Where hairy vetch was present, yields were as low as 20.8 bu/ac.

Comments: We are extremely pleased with the weed control and soybean growth in our no-till organic soybeans.
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Plan to evaluate two rye varieties and barley.
Cash crop(s):  
Soybeans.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
First week of June.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
No hairy vetch, broadcast seeding, higher seeding rates.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
Must crimp at rye pollination; seed placement needs to be perfected in the heavy residues.

SOUTH

Mississippi

2006 Review
Cover(s):  

Balansa clover, rye.

Cash crop(s):  
Cotton.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Poor.

Weed management used:  
Herbicide.
Weed control assessment:  
Poor.
Yields assessment:  

Poor.

Comments: Rolled too late, planter settings too shallow, cover not thick enough, tough to tell where you’ve planted into one-pass system.
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Fall planted cover crops accidentally killed by a mistaken herbicide application.
Cash crop(s):  
Cotton.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
Recently seeded oats and austrian winter peas to test the feasibility of spring-planted cover crop.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
Wait and see.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
NA

NORTHERN PLAINS

North Dakota

2006 Review
Cover(s):  

Winter rye, spring oats, spring barley.

Cash crop(s):  
Pinto beans.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Several passes required to terminate the rye.

Weed management used:  
After rolling and seeding of the beans, a sickle bar cutter (adjustable height above the crop canopy) was used to clip the tops of weeds to prevent them from going to seed.
Weed control assessment:  
Poor (trial abandoned Aug. 15 due to drought and weeds).
Yields assessment:  

Crop failure.

Comments: Stand of rye was thin (little plant tillering) due to an early warm spring. This may have made the rye harder to kill, and certainly made a thin mat of rolled crop to compete with weeds. The number of choices of cover crops for North Dakota are somewhat limited (due to short growing season) if we want to seed a cash crop into it. Excited to work with the roller though and adapt its use for no-till organic production in North Dakota.
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Winter rye planted fall 2006, spring planted oats, barley, peas and buckwheat.
Cash crop(s):  
Beans, buckwheat, soybean and warm-season annual forages.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
Early June to mid July.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
We plan to look at rolling a number of different cover crops to gain experience on what crops work best in our region. Also to use an existing small-lot drill to gain experiences on seeding various crops into the rolled cover crop. Mainly to first look at the concept of rolling cover crops in North Dakota across a variety of crops in more of a demonstration instead of a replicated trial.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
The large size of farms we have in the North Dakota would dictate larger roller sizes for field-scale production. Also, proper rolling timing and cover crop type recommendations for our environment need to be determined.

WEST COAST

California

2006 Review
Cover(s):  

Five Points site: Rye, triticale, Austrian
winter pea, balansa clover.

Guinda site: Rye, triticale, vetch.

Madera site: Rye, triticale, balansa clover and winter pea.

Cash crop(s):  
Cotton (Five Points), Tomatoes (Guinda),
Eggplant (Madera).
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

The cover crops did not seem to die soon after rolling. This was one of our biggest surprises. We did not see a means of planting or transplanting—and subsequently recommencing irrigations—at the time of rolling. It seemed in fact, to actually take 3-4 weeks for the cover crops to die. Whether that was due to rolling primarily, or perhaps to drying soil is not known.

At Madera, where we transplanted eggplant, approximately 3-4 weeks following rolling, close to 100 percent of rye was dead, about 80 percent of the pea was dead, and about 50 percent of the balansa clover was dead. All of them, though, eventually died during the course of the season. At Guinda, about 90 percent to 99 percent of the rye covers died; however, only about 50 percent of the vetch died within this time period.

Weed management used:  
Madera and Guinda were organic; hand weeding was the only method of management. No herbicides were used at the Five Points cotton site. Relatively modest weed densities occurred at Madera and Five Points.
Weed control assessment:  
Variable.
Yields assessment:  

Five Points: There was no viable harvestable cotton crop. Stand establishment was a huge problem. Cotton only came up—after initial soil drying during cover-crop dying period—following subsequent irrigation. By then it was too late for it to grow, develop and produce lint.

Madera: Yields were carefully measured; about 20 percent yield of standard plastic system for eggplant.

Guinda: Crop abandoned due to too many problems, not the least of which was inadequate kill of vetch cover crop.

Comments: Proper timing of roll-down and adequate moisture for cover crop germination are critical. We did not succeed with our rolled cover crop trials in 2006 at any site. Problems included: 1) the cover crop not dying until fairly considerable time following rolling and apprehension about putting in a high-value vegetable into a dying cover; 2) stand establishment problems in our cotton that was no-till planted on the same day as cover crop rolling in Five Points. The cover crop did not die immediately but dried soil out, and this interfered with stand and early season cotton vigor. Seedlings seemed to subsequently dry out and die.
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Rye/triticale mix and clover/pea mix in Five Points. Lack of rains this winter have resulted in very poor cover crop growth. We are waiting for fall to consider retrying at Madera site.
Cash crop(s):  
Cotton at Five Points.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
April 20.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
Plant after rolling and cover crop death.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
We currently do not see how rolling and transplanting immediately following can be managed in organic systems based on our 2006 experiences. It seemed we needed more time to allow full death of the cover crops following rolling. Some timing finesse is needed in order to enable cover crop rolling and cotton no-till planting in close succession so as to avoid soil drying and cotton seedling emergence and establishment problems. Rolling seemed to work, but follow-up operations did not come together to yield useful outcomes.

MID-ATLANTIC

Pennsylvania (north-central)

2006 Review
Cover(s):  
Cereal rye, hairy vetch, winter canola.
Cash crop(s):  
Soybean in cereal rye (reduced herbicide rate and timing) and corn grain in hairy vetch and canola (with and without herbicide).
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Can successfully kill rye with rolling alone, but timing is key. Reduced herbicide rates plus rolling looks good for rye management. We had some success with rolling hairy vetch alone, but corn planting was too late. We experienced crop failure with canola control using the roller alone.

Weed management used:  
Cover crop residues and glyphosate.
Weed control assessment:  
Percent weed control and weed density in some trials. We could not effectively kill winter canola with a roller/crimper.
Yields assessment:  
Corn yield in hairy vetch trial only.
Comments: The primary focus in 2005/2006 was on cereal rye and looking at how planting and termination date influence cover crop growth stage and mechanical control with the roller/crimper. We added a reduced rate glyphosate trial that looked very promising; reduced rates of glyphosate (Roundup) in combination with rolling can work better than either tactic alone if farmers are able to use some herbicide. Cereal rye should be flowering (Zadok growth stage 60) at the time of rolling for consistent control without herbicides. Control of hairy vetch with rolling alone is less consistent than with rye and requires more research to specifically identify the factors that can make it work. Certainly the reproductive stage (flowering) is key, but we need to better identify this period as it occurs over about three weeks (this is a trial that we are doing at three locations in 2007 with the Rodale Institute).
 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
Cereal rye, hairy vetch, wheat+hairy vetch.
Cash crop(s):  
Soybean in rye and vetch + wheat, and corn in vetch.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
Will roll and plant during month of May and early June, dependent on cover crop growth.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
Added at least three new trials (vetch plus wheat, new cereal rye, and new hairy vetch trial).
Critical management steps for roller to become viable:
In organic vetch systems, consistent timely control of vetch with roller/crimper alone. Consistent soybean stands in rolled-down cereal rye. Control of dicot broadleaf weeds (common ragweed) in organic soybeans using rolled cereal rye.

Pennsvlvania (southeast)
The Rodale Institute

2006 Review
Cover(s):  
Winter cereal rye, winter wheat, hairy vetch (including a new, early flowering variety being trialed).
Cash crop(s):  
Soybeans, corn, pumpkins.
Roller kill
planting assessment:
 

Further evaluation of effectiveness on no-till planter tool modifications.

1) Weights were added to each planter row (130 pounds/row; 520 pounds total) for additional ballast to facilitate cutting through the heavy hairy vetch mat. This worked well.

2) Focus on new adaptation of cast-iron closing wheels to get better seed-furrow closure (and related increases plant population rates). This also worked well.

Weed management used:  
Only rolled mulch; no extra treatment this year.
Weed control assessment:  
Good in hairy vetch for corn; not as good in the rye rolled for soybeans compared to other years. Rolled wheat was poor.
Yields assessment:  
Best corn yields to date; 146 bu/ac
average at 15.5% moisture.

Comments: As we become more familiar with and fine-tune this system—including timing, variety selection and tool settings and modification—our results improve dramatically. This year’s organic no-till yields surpassed both our conventional plots and tilled organic fields. One major challenge in this no-till system will be cutworms.

Last year one of our no-till corn fields got hit hard and wiped out from these chewing worms. When we did pre-roll biomass cuts we evaluated for cutworm and we extrapolated that there were from 33,000 to 34,000 cutworms per acre (that's more than one worm per corn plant at our planting rate). As a result of that count at that time I decided to delay rolling and planting. The hairy vetch plots were ready to roll from 19 May to 2 June; we could have rolled and had good kill on the hairy vetch earlier, but the cutworm population was high. The delay let the cutworms mature and develop into moths.

When we went back in after the corn was emerging, we still had some cutworm damage but we also found many moths emerging from the seed furrow slits as we did our counts and examination. Many other moths had already emerged and left. I think in this case the delayed planting let the majority of the cutworms mature to the moth stage where they did not pose a chewing threat to the corn seedlings. This will be a continued challenge for us, will make us carefully consider timing, and will certainly vary from year to year with environmental conditions.

 
2007 Season Status and Preview
Cover(s):  
For no-till soybeans: Aroostook winter cereal rye, Balboa winter cereal rye; our on-farm grown VNS winter cereal rye; commercially available VNS winter cereal rye, triticale, winter spelt.

All of these cover crops were planted both at high and low seeding rates, to compare these populations for biomass production and uniformity of flowering date. Cereal crops planted with high populations typically produce fewer tillers, and the tillers typically mature later than the main stem; therefore, when the tillers are rolled they are not as mature and tend to pop back up and sometimes re-grow. Higher populations should lead to fewer tillers and a more uniform kill when the small grains are rolled.

For no-till field corn: Hairy vetch—Nebraska and Oregon Seed Tag origins—planted with spring oats in the fall (which winter killed); these were planted both in a double pass every drill row configuration and in a single pass every-other-row (HV-Oats-HV-Oats) configuration. Dormant seeding of hairy vetch. Early-spring planted hairy vetch (not yet planted).

Other legume cover crops that will be evaluated for rolling potential will be the biennials: yellow blossom sweet clover and white blossom sweet clover; these two cover crops were frost seeded into winter wheat in March 2006. Legume bi-culture Austrian winter peas and hairy vetch compared to a straight stand of Austrian winter peas. Legume bi-culture of crimson clover and hairy vetch.
Cash crop(s):  
Soybeans, Corn.
Target roll/
plant date(s):
 
No-till corn hairy vetch plots will be evaluated to compare the timing of rolling to the percent kill achieved, beginning at 80 percent bloom (estimated date 5/19-5/25) and continuing in one week intervals fore 4 roll/kill date comparisons.
Planned management changes/trials for 2007:  
Time of roll kill comparison for hairy vetch for no-till corn. Evaluate new cover crops in system legume bi-cultures (hairy vetch and crimson clover, hairy vetch and Austrian winter peas), yellow and white sweet clovers, and dormant spring seeding of hairy vetch.
Critical management steps for roller to become viable: Planting into thick mat of rolled-down vetch was an issue requiring adaptation of seed-planting equipment.