“I have never welded anything in my life but the farmers I work with coached me through how to transform this tillage equipment into a roller crimper and if I can do it, anybody can do it.”
— Dr. Ryan Schmid, Research Scientist & Agroecologist, Ecdysis Foundation
In this episode of the Cover Crop Strategies podcast, brought to you by Montag Manufacturing, Ryan Schmid, a research scientist and agroecologist at the Ecdysis Foundation in South Dakota, gives a preview into his upcoming presentation at the 2023 National Cover Crop Summit. His presentation features a “how-to” guide and background info on how Ryan turned tillage equipment into a roller crimper for terminating cover crops. He says if he can do it, anyone can.
You can register for the 2023 National Cover Crop Summit at covercropsummit.com.
The Cover Crop Strategies podcast series is brought to you by Montag Manufacturing.
Montag precision metering equipment is helping producers achieve their yield goals while saving on seed and input costs. For establishing cover crops, Montag’s family of seed platform equipment adapts to a variety of major brand delivery systems that will conserve seed and nutrients along with soil and water. Explore new options for your production and conservation goals with your Montag dealer, visit www.Montagmfg.com or call Montag at (712) 517-2775.
Welcome to the Cover Crop Strategies podcast, brought to you by Montag Manufacturing. I'm Mackane Vogel, Assistant Editor at Cover Crop Strategies. In today's episode of the podcast, Ryan Schmid, a research scientist and agroecologist at Ecdysis Foundation in South Dakota, gives a preview into his upcoming presentation at the 2023 National Cover Crop Summit. His presentation features a how-to guide and background info on how Ryan turned tillage equipment into a roller crimper for terminating cover crops. He says, if he can do it, anyone can.Ryan Schmid:
I'm Ryan Schmid. I work at Ecdysis Foundation, which is a small non-for-profit research institute that's located in rural South Dakota. And we work primarily with farmers and producers around the country to investigate soil health and other beneficial insects and other environmental aspects out there. And I'm an entomologist by training, so I study insects a lot.Speaker 3:
So I know you're joining us as a speaker at the 2023 National Cover Crop Summit for a presentation titled How to Turn Tillage Equipment into a Roller Crimper, which is a little bit outside of the scope of insects. So how did you first get started with this do-it-yourself project?Ryan Schmid:
It's quite the left turn from what I'm trained to do, but fortunately, we have a good community of farmers that we work with in our area, and we actually invite them over for coffee club on a regular basis. And they are really progressive and they're trying out a lot of cover crops on their land, and they were looking for alternative ways to terminate those cover crops. And we threw around a bunch of ideas and we finally landed on, "Maybe we can build this thing." And they had a lot of expertise with manufacturing and welding. We had expertise with getting together some grant money to help subsidize this thing, and it's where we came together and really helped each other. And then they supervised me because I have never welded anything in my life. And so they coached us through, and if I can do it, anybody can do this.Speaker 3:
Nice. So walk me through what are the steps that farmers would need to go through to take this piece of tillage equipment or whatever the equipment might be, to then make it a roller crimper?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. Fortunately, and the reason we decided to tackle this project is we looked at some roller crimpers that were commercially manufactured and we decided, or we thought to ourselves, "They're not that complicated, so we don't think it's going to take that much." And what it boiled down to, once you have the frame of what you're going to be converting into a roller crimper, then you just have to build some drums for the actual crimpers and then mount those onto that frame. So, it's you build drums and you put them on the frame. And we used a disc. We thought that was a good frame that we could find in our area.Speaker 3:
Okay. And what are the drums built out of?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. Essentially, we took steel tubes or pipes from scrapyards. We think they came out of the oil fields in North Dakota. So it was scrap metal. It was really cheap and plentiful in our area in the scrapyards. And that happened to be just the exact size that we were looking for in a drum. And then we welded steel plates onto those.Speaker 3:
Okay. And I know the people watching, the farmers are always innovative and always willing to tinker around with things. So I'm sure everybody's wheels are going, "What can I use as a drum that's local to my area?"Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. We were fortunate, but we think that that supply is pretty plentiful in a lot of scrapyards around the Upper Midwest where we're located anyway.Speaker 3:
Okay. What do you see as the benefit of using the roller crimper to terminate cover crops versus doing a burn down or something like that?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. As an entomologist studying insects, my perspective was if I terminate my cover crop using a roller crimper as opposed to a burn down application, I am basically creating that mat on the soil surface. And that mat actually provides a lot of benefits to soil in terms of keeping it cooler, retaining a little bit more moisture. And that is really important for insects because they're arthropods and water retention is really important to them. So if you want to retain beneficial insect communities that you're likely building with cover crops, roller crimping might be a better way to retain those communities then burning it down with herbicides. And then the farmers were just interested, they just didn't want to use as many chemicals, and they saw this as a way to knock out one of the herbicide passes.Speaker 3:
Sure. And that's important for a number of reasons, for, like you said, preserving insect populations and reducing chemical use and the cost that comes along with that too.Ryan Schmid:
I'd like to take a moment to thank our sponsor, Montag Manufacturing. Montag precision metering equipment is helping producers achieve their yield goals while saving on seed and input costs. For establishing cover crops, Montag's family of seed platform equipment adapts to a variety of major brand delivery systems that will conserve seed and nutrients along with soil and water. Explore new options for your production and conservation goals with your Montag dealer. Visit montagmfg.com or call Montag at 712-517-2775. And now let's get back to the conversation.Speaker 3:
So in terms of the farmers that you've worked with to now build the DIY roller crimper, how has it worked for them?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. We got an opportunity to test it three times last year. We built it, we finished it last spring of 2022, and we had three farmers that had an established cover crop that were hoping to try it out. Actually, two farmers with a cover crop and one with a weed patch. And they were happy with it. It did have a couple issues, and we'll go over that in the presentation for future modifications that we'd like to do to it. But they were happy. They said it worked great. It crimped and it killed their cover crop, how they expected it to perform. And it also, we had one farmer that had a huge patch of weeds, Canadian thistles, and he took it out there after the thistles had bloomed and mowed it or ran the crimper over top of those thistles, and it took care of his thistle patch just as good as a cover crop. So that was a fun little byproduct of it.Speaker 3:
Yeah, for sure. Is there any advice that you would give to a farmer who's trying roller crimping in terms of when they should be roller crimping and what they can roller crimp?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah. So we're located in east-central South Dakota, Brookings, South Dakota area. And most of what we run into for our folks that are using rye as a cover crop just because that's what they can get established, and then that's what comes through the winter well here for that spring cover. And that's what matures to the stage where it's that shedding pollen stage or even just into that milky stage where it's really effective to crimp that off, where they usually will plant green into that standing rye crop with their soybeans. Soybeans get a chance to get established, but they're not too big to the point where you can run a crimper over them when the rye is at that pollen shedding stage in our area.Speaker 3:
Are all of the farmers you're working with, are they planting green or would this still be effective if somebody wanted to try roller crimping but then not planting green?Ryan Schmid:
Yeah, you could. This would work well. The caveat to that, if you wanted to crimp and then establish your crop, you would have to make sure that the roller crimper that you built was the same width as your planter or drill, so that as you roll the field first, and your cover crop will be rolled in a certain direction, your planter or drill will come through and plant in that same direction to avoid that hair-pinning issue or that going against the grain issue as well.Speaker 3:
Sure. Okay. And then to sum it up, what are three takeaways that people will learn from watching your presentation for the National Cover Crop Summit?Ryan Schmid:
The three takeaways will be how to go about building this crimper, gathering up the parts, thinking about the design, so learn parts and supplies, design, and lastly, future modifications for this.Speaker 3:
Excellent. Well, I know this is a presentation that [inaudible 00:10:24] staff are really excited about because we've never seen anything like this. So we're excited about that, and I invite everyone to go to covercropsummit.com to register for this free online event that's coming up March 14th through 16th. So thank you so much for joining me today, Ryan.Ryan Schmid:
Yeah, thanks for having me.Mackane Vogel:
Thanks to Ryan Schmid for today's discussion. The full transcript will be available at covercropstrategies.com/podcasts. Many thanks to Montag Manufacturing for helping to make this cover crop podcast series possible. And from all of us here at Cover Crop Strategies, I'm Mackane Vogel. Thanks for listening.