Roller Crimper FAQ
As with any system, there are skills a farmer learns along the way that make their operation run more efficiently and ultimately be more effective. A farming system based on cover crops and n-till is no different. I always say, “Just because I have a fine box of wood working tools- it doesn’t make me a master cabinet maker.” Well the same is true for managing a complex biological system like organic no-till. It will take several growing seasons before any practitioner will feel truly confident in his or her ability to implement the system. Changes in weather, soil conditions, o other matters of your control all may have an impact on the success or failure of the system to perform as expect.
Can I use the roller crimper to roll weeds?
I sometimes get questions about using the roller/crimper as a tool for weed control. For example, a farmer might want to use it to roll a weed-infested field. Unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, it often is too good to be true. This is the case will the idea of rolling weeds; the weeds are merely knocked down by the roller/crimper, not killed. They will spring back into action and compete with crop plants. This is especially true for perennial weeds. Our system is designed to work with annual and winter annual cover crops, such as rye, vetch, annual clovers, peas, barley, or buckwheat. We roll these plants just as there are completing their life cycle – in effect killing them just a little bit early. In this way, organic no-till works in cooperation with nature. By contrast, if you try to kill a summer annual weed, or perennial weed with the roller/crimper, you are really working against nature. You are asking the plant to die in the middle of its life cycle, before it has time to reproduce. No weed worth its salt is going to lie down and die before it has reproduced.
What kinds of cove crops do you recommend?
Here are some examples of cover crops that can be killed with the roller/crimper. For more information, see the chapter on cover cropping. Crimson clover, winter rye, winter barley, spring barley, spring oats, buckwheat, foxtail millet, pearl millet, bell/fava bean, sunn hemp, black oats, hairy vetch, field peas, winter wheat.
What kinds of cover crops do not work?
Just as with weeds, the roller/crimper will only work on annual cover crops as they are completing their life cycle. We have found that annual cereal grains such as rye, barley, and wheat roll well. The roller/crimper won’t kill cover crops like red clover, which is a biennial, alfalfa, which is a perennial or ‘Marshall’ rye, a kind of annual ryegrass.