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Title: Managing cover crops in no-till organic systems using rolling technology

item Kornecki, Ted

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/16/2011
Publication Date: 3/16/2011
Citation: Kornecki, T.S. 2011. Managing cover crops in no-till organic systems using rolling technology [abstract]. USDA Organic Farming Systems Research Conference. CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: In recent years use of cover crops in no-till organic production systems without incorporating them into the soil has been steadily increasing. This increase is associated with important benefits from cover crops left on the soil surface which improve soil properties and enhance main crop growth. Rollers/crimpers to flatten and crimp cover crops have been designed for larger field crop applications, but there is a need to develop rollers for smaller tractors. To target small farm settings, new roller designs were developed at the USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama. During 2006-2011 four different roller concepts were fabricated and tested and results indicate that the new roller family maintained or exceeded termination effectiveness compared to the original roller design. The first roller was designed for elevated bed systems and is able to successfully terminate cover crops in furrows and row tops. The second roller is a smooth roller with crimping bar, which generated termination rates of 92% and 99%, 2 and 3 weeks after rolling, respectively. The third roller is a two-stage roller with a smooth drum to flatten the cover crop and a spring preloaded second drum with crimping bars to crimp just rolled down cover without generating harmful vibrations. Termination rates for rye by this roller/crimper design were consistent during three growing seasons 92% and 98%, two and three weeks after rolling, respectively. On very small organic vegetable farms power source is limited to a self-propelled walk-behind garden tractor. To address this restriction, a fourth roller/crimper type was developed in 2010. This is a PTO powered roller/crimper to work with a self-propelled limited power tractor. Because the crimping bar’s force comes from compression springs, the machine is much lighter than traditional rollers, requires less horsepower in the field and is much easier to handle and transport. The crimping frequency can be manipulated both through the engine RPM and the speed of the tractor. Termination rates for rye in 2010 by the powered roller/crimper were 89% one week, and 100% two and three weeks after rolling. These results are similar to those found with traditional larger and heavier roller/crimpers. There has been a considerable interest from the organic farming community in the Southeast in obtaining this type of the roller/crimper implement.