Organic No-till

Working with the Roller Crimper

How to Use the Roller Crimper

Like any tool, owning it is only half the equation. Learning or developing the skills to use it is the other half. One practical application we have discovered is that a small grain cover crop like rye or barley leaves a better mulch pattern on the ground when it is rolled at an angle of 30 to 90 degrees from the direction in which it was planted. To further explain, if you seed the small grain with a grain drill the seeds will be in 7 or 8 inch rows neatly following the direction of the grain drill. If you come along when the grain has pollinated and roll it in that exact same direction, the plants will lay over neatly in those same 7 or 8 inch rows leaving “gaps” in the mulch between those rows where weeds will have the opportunity to exploit the bit of sunlight that reaches that area. On the other hand, if you roll a small grain at 30 to 90 degree angle from the direction the grain drill traveled; when the timing is right the stems of the small grain will lay flat across the grain leaving no bare areas or row spacing for weed seedlings to exploit. This may sound confusing but in practice it is quite simple. The technique requires no particular skill, just the knowledge to put it into practice. Another thing to consider is the proper mounting of the roller/crimper on the tractor. What does this mean? Well, the roll can only crimp the cover crop it if has the ability to press it against the soil. He soil actually acts as an anvil when the blade of the roller crushes the cover crop. IN order for that to happen on an uneven surface, like the ground, it is to have the roller in a full “float” position. That means the hydraulic system must incorporate a valve with a “detent” or “float” position. One the valve is pushed over center it will remain open allowing the hydraulic fluid to pass through in both directions without any restriction, permitting the roller to float over the surface of the soil no matter how rolling the terrain might be. Of course this isn’t an issue if you are pulling the roller with a tractor or a horse in a tow-pass system.

Build Your Own Roller Crimper

Roller/crimpers based on he Rodale design can be purchased through I & J Manufacturing in Gap, Pennsylvania. Visit their company website at They can also be made by a local fabricator, or build your own from free plans which can be downloaded at Rollers vary in cost depending on size and complexity of design, for example hydraulic folding. If you would like to mount your roller/crimper on the front of your tractor, you’ll need to consider purchasing a special front 3-point hitch although some folks have modified a loader frame to handle the task.

Download FREE Roller Crimper Plans Here!