A discussion in the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN) email group started with a question about using row cleaners on a planter for planting cereal rye and soybeans. Several no-tillers proceeded to discuss the topic and give advice based on prior experiences. Read the full discussion below. To post to the OGRAIN listserv email discussion group, send an email to: ograin@g-groups.wisc.edu. To subscribe, send an email to ograin+subscribe@g-groups.wisc.edu .  

We planted cereal rye last fall and are going to try to plant soybean at boot stage with our 6 row planter and then crimp when the rye is at anthesis. Do you think we need row cleaners on our planter? Thanks.
-Mike Shaw, West Virginia

Response: No, we have done similar and we took them off. They will make mini round bales out of the rye if they get to wrapping!

-Scott Myers, Woodlyn Acres Farm, Dalton, Ohio

Response: I appreciate all the discussion on this, as we were just strategizing yesterday about doing an experiment trialing different coulters in the rolled rye system. I'd take the row cleaners off. In addition to use of row cleaners, I’d love to hear what folks have had success (or failures) with regarding coulters as well.

-Erin Silva, Madison, Wis.

Response: I agree. I take the row cleaners off as they wrap and leave bar dirt over the rows. Regarding coulters and seed openers – I just finished switching out the seed openers on my planter for openers from Prescription Tillage. They have a serrated edge on them and are supposed to cut through residue better than a standard disk opener. I’ll let you know how it goes!

-Dan Miller, La Crosse, Wis.

Response: What are all of you using for closing wheels? Smooth or spiked or both?

-Travis Klinkner, Romance, Wis. 

Response: I was running Dawn Curvetines but found they wrapped too much, so I switched to smooth cast iron.

-Dan Miller, La Crosse, Wis. 

Response: I run Dawn GaugeRing closing wheels, WAM Farms gauge wheels, and Dawn GFX row cleaners.

The picture below shows why I firmly believe in running a row cleaner.  If it comes through in high enough resolution to allow zooming in, note the significant difference in plant stand where the path was cleared by a row cleaner versus not.

-Jacob Bolson, Hubbard, Iowa

Response: Interesting discussion here--my experience running row cleaners (straight-tooth Yetter type) in standing rye has also not been pleasant (excessive wrapping). I imagine a swept-back tooth style row cleaner might avoid some of this--Jacob, could you elaborate?

Also, I've thus far avoided using a no-till coulter (wavy or straight) in standing rye for fear of "hair-pinning" rye residue into the seed trench. For those of you that use coulters--is this fear at all warranted? Does it depend on how tall the rye is?

I've also had good success using a spiked (Copperhead Ag) closing wheel in the standing rye scenario--it seems to close the trench more consistently than the smooth wheel setup.

-Wesley Rieth, Michigan

Response: If a coulter or row cleaner disturbs the soil very much, I'd say that's an invitation for weed emergence. I've had my neighbor use his no-till planter to plant my soybeans at anthesis with a coulter. He eventually removed the coulter because he felt that the coulter actually inhibited disk opener penetration. What you need is a nice warm rain after planting.

-George Naylor, Iowa

Related Content:

OGRAIN Discussion: Frost Seeding Cover Crops & Interseeding Clover into Soybeans

Precision Planting Unveils New Row Cleaner

[Podcast] Understanding Allelopathy with Cereal Rye When Planting Corn