Jackie deBatista: Test the efficiency of using rolled and crimped cover crops in a no-till system against conventional no-till with the hopes of illustrating that no-till organic corn can be an economically feasible method of weed control.
Andrew Hazzard: no-till cucurbitants demonstration to demonstrate effectiveness of no-till to vegetable and specialty crop growers.
Kathryn Brown did not participate.
This is specific for Jackie deBatista: I ended up planting winter rye in what would be an organic cultivated field of corn, so the side-by-side trial compared no-till organic to cultivated organic corn. We did, however, plant conventional no-till (non-og) corn on another area of the farm, so comparison can also be made with that as originally planned. Spread manure on whole field, planted rye cover crop on whole field. The rye grew vigorously. We crimped twice because the rye didn’t lay flat after one crimping. No-till planted organic corn into residue mat. We tilled the organic corn area (cultivated side), planted corn and cultivated that areas three times. Please see maps for yield comparison. Cultivated corn averaged 120 bu per acre; roller crimper trial area average 40 bu per acre.
Maurice Ogutn, Educator, University of Iowa Extension; assisted with field day, gave technical advice.
The results were overall negative. The crimper did a poor job of killing the rye cover crop, so we fought weed pressure all summer. In addition, the need to crimp pushed back our planting dates. The corn germinated and grew to about eight inches, at which point a heat wave and drought stunted its growth considerably. The corn was fighting for nutrients in the organic no-till plot, as evidenced by its yellow coloration. The organic corn next to it had much better growth and nutrient uptake. Organic corn yielded 120 bu per acre versus no-till organic corn at 40 bu per acre. **Please see attached harvest maps. Final negative outcome: the weed encroachment not only included the rye but also thistle. The inability to cultivate allowed the thistle to take hold and now we struggle to control it. (It’s an organic field, so no herbicide is permitted.)
I was glad to be able to try organic no-till on my farm at relatively low financial cost and little risk. I remain unconvinced that this technique and farm implement are a solution to the organic row crop system’s struggles with soil erosion, simply because if and when the weeds take hold there is no backup solution for weed control. I believe you would need an extremely clean field as well as perfect weather conditions to make this technique successful. As we all know, there is no perfect weather year and very few weed-free fields. I think this technique (Roller crimping) holds promise possibly in a short-season crop such as certain vegetables, etc.