Published Jun 13, 2014

Roller Crimper and Strip Tillage Field Day at ISU Horticulture Research Station

By Tomoko Ogawa


The use of roller crimper as a cover crop termination method has been attracting increasing interests among those who are interested in conservation tillage practices. The demonstration of roller crimper in action was the center of the field day titled  “Roller Crimper and Strip Tillage Field Day” hosted by Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Horticulture  in Ames on June 5th.

Field day started with the presentation of the ongoing trial – pepper and broccoli production following rye cover crop terminated by roller crimper. Rye was drilled at 100 lbs/acre in September 2013 at ISU Horticulture Research Station. A month later in October 2013, they strip tilled the plot. In May 2014, rye was mowed and tilled in mow/till plots, and in June, rolled and crimped, followed by rototill, strip till, or no-till at each treatment plot respectively. They will transplant pepper and broccoli plants in June and the plots will be fertigated every 7 to 10 days from June to August. 

At the demo, we saw Rodale Institute-designed roller crimper at work, and also saw the strip tillage equipment that is attached in the back of the trailer (Hiniker 6000). Roller crimper was mounted in front of the tractor. The weight of roller crimper is about 1,800 lbs when filled with water. The roller crimper, Dr. Ajay Nair, Assistant Professor at ISU Horticulture Department said, cost about $2,400 including the shipping. As the roller powered through the field tamping down the rye, attendees were eager to pick up fallen stems to closely examine how they were crimped. Nair explained how crimping at least at three points assure to kill the plant.  Next to the plot where they demonstrated the roller crimper was the area where rye had been rolled and crimped about a week ago with the same equipment. The rye was starting to turn brown.

One of the most important things to remember and consider when rolling/crimping is the timing. Cover crops need to be rolled and crimped at an advanced stage, at anthesis, to successfully kill the plants. If they were rolled and crimped too early, they are most likely to be able to recover and compete with the main crop. This is why late planted cash crops such as the ones used for this study – transplanted peppers and fall broccoli – are most suited for no-till vegetable production system with roller crimpers.

For this project, ISU research team will take the yield data from different plots (mowed and tilled, roller crimped and rototilled, roller crimped and strip tilled, roller crimped with no-till).  People can see the pepper and broccoli plants at these different treatments during upcoming ISU Fruit and Vegetable Field Day on Monday, August 11th. You can find more information about this even in our field day guide, under “Partner Events.”