The use of a roller crimper to terminate cover crops in the spring is gaining popularity. 

Many farmers often ask if the blades on a crimper should touch the ground, or how much clearance should be allowed. Eric Neimeyer, a farmer in Delaware County, uses a crimper and shared his experience. 

“We have the full weight of the crimper on the ground, and do not have the wheels holding it up for clearance,” Neimeyer said. “The actual crimping of the cereal rye is the goal, and it is the weight of the tool that puts the crimp into the stem of the rye. The cereal rye needs to be at a minimum in boot stage to kill with crimper. You want to get it before it goes to seed.”

Blade designs vary by the manufacturer. 

“There are straight, V form, multiple rows, and chevron blade designs on roller crimpers” Neimeyer said. “Wrapping is a concern if farmers are not using an actual roller crimper that is designed for it. Using other tools such as a cultipacker, or rolling baskets not designed for cover crop termination will lay the crop over, but not crimp it, and you will also have wrapping issues. Farmers need to lay rye down in corn, or the corn will fight the cover crop rye for the sunlight.”

Some planters have rollers in front of the row units. Some have a roller in front of the tractor or entire planter. Hans Kok, program director of the Conservation Technology Information Center in Indiana, said the the field can be rolled before or after planting.

“More farmers are planting first, and rolling second,” Kok said. “It gives the farmer more time for the cover crop to grow, and also allows farmers to focus on planting first, and then rolling and crimping the cover crop. Direction is an issue if a field is rolled first, then planted. Planting in the same direction is important when trying to avoid wrapping. The chevron bars make a smoother ground surface for better tractor ride and smoother for the planter.”

Rolling cover crops in soybeans after the beans have emerged is gaining popularity,” Kok said. “Some studies show it helps the beans be more vigorous.”