Advances using the roller-crimper for organic no-till in Wisconsin

(theme music) I’m Erin Silva, the organic and sustainable
cropping systems specialist with the University Wisconsin Extension. Today I want to talk about optimizing
the cover crop based no-till system specifically for organic management. The
cover crop based no-till system involves planting a fall cover crop, leaving that cover
crop to over winter, and then coming in the
following spring and terminating that cover crop, either with a mower or a roller-crimper. One of the first
questions I often get from organic farmers looking to integrate this technique into their
system is how do I fit this into my crop rotation. Here in Wisconsin in the upper
Midwestern region of the US, one of the best solutions is to fit
into an alfalfa corn cereal grain and soybean rotation. Where
the alfalfa is established for two to three years followed by a corn crop either for
silage or for grain and then coming in with a cereal grain
crop either winter wheat or oat. And that cereal grain is then
harvested in the late summer which allows for early establishment of
the rye cover crop, which ensures adequate biomass for
rolling and crimping the following year. Here in Wisconsin that rye
establishment really needs to occur between September 15th in October 15th. Whereas a rye crop for typical cover crop
can be established later in the fall, for this technique, it really
is essential that that rye is established early to allow for adequate biomass and adequate
weed suppression during the soybean year. Another factor
that a farmer should consider when adopting this technique are the
appropriate equipment modifications to allow for both successful rolling and
crimping and successful planting of the soybean.
One of the first things that we did here at the University Wisconsin-Madison was to front mount the roller-crimper
using a three-point hitch. By front mounting the roller-crimper, it
allows for the crimper to make contact with the rye crop before the tractor, which allows for more effective termination. It also allows for more success
seeding on large acreage where you don’t have to go across the field after crimping and allows for more precise seeding and
more precise row spacing. Other equipment modifications involve
the planting equipment. Farmers often ask me should I plant
with a no-till grain drill on narrower spacing or should I plant on 30 inch row with the corn planter. We recommend planting with 30-inch
rows with the corn planter. This allows for farmers to come in and do high residue cultivation later in the season if the rye residue is not adequate to
suppress the weeds throughout the entire summer period. Other modifications are
valuable as well, and Alex, a field technician here the
university research station has done several modifications to our
equipment to ensure success in the system. So the first thing I started with open
this plan was to put frame mounted no-till coulters. You can
see how it is mounted here and slicing through the first part of the residue. It is separate from the
row units. Also you get the whole way to the frame on
the planter pushing down. Right here the double-disc openers on
the row unit about to cut through the residue. We were able to get 600 pounds of
pressure per row unit by adding heavy-duty down pressure
springs. The other modification I’d like to point out is that I added weights to that planter as well. Added about twelve hundred pounds of weights. This is a six row planter, so it is 200lbs per row unit. You can see the combination of
heavy-duty down pressure springs as well as the additional weight that
was put on the planter, has allowed the no-till coulter and the double-disc
openers to slice through this residue. You can see how it cut right through the
rye cover. You want to make sure of as with anything, after you spend all that time
working on your planter, is that you want to make sure you have it set properly in
the while out the field. That you are getting good soil to seed
contact. That you are are getting the soybeans through the rye and into the ground. After eight years researching cover crop based no-till here at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, we’ve seen great success using this
system. By using cover crops, no-till organic farmers in Wisconsin can
eliminate tillage and cultivation in the soybean phase of the crop rotation. We typically get now
about 40 to 45 bushels an acre using this technique. And by adopting the recommendations
provided today, organic farmers can optimize success of
this technique in their systems. For further information you can visit my
website Where I will post research
updates and further information. (music)

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