- Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, drought tolerance, fallow, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management
- Education and Training: demonstration, networking, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
- Pest Management: cultural control, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mulching - vegetative, prevention, smother crops, soil solarization
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
This project attempts to implement a successful roller-crimper no-till routine for the coastal plain of the southeast United States where tropical conditions are common most years. Because of the high annual rainfalls which typically occur in concentrated time intervals, all agriculture in this area of South Carolina is typically done on raised beds to prevent complete water saturation of plants. Converting to no till has many obstacles in the coastal plain as most no till equipment is not designed for raised beds. In order to enhance and improve soil quality, no till methods are imperative. Sandy soils in the coastal plains need protections provided by no till to maintain nutrients and carbon in the soil structure. While rainfall is robust, there are also typically periods of extreme heat and drought which make moisture retention imperative. To enhance moisture retention, humus in the soil must be retained by some method.
One method of no till agriculture utilizes a specially designed farm implement called a roller crimper. The roller crimper is designed to crimp a cover crop thus terminating the growth of the crop. The timing of the crimping is important in order to completely terminate the growth of the plant. Once the cover crop has been terminated a cash crop can be planted into the crimped cover crop. The crimped cover crop will form a mulched layer which will protect the new plants from weeds and also help retain moisture as any mulch would.
Roller crimping is a relatively new technique for use in no till applications. However, no till applications were not typically in use for raised beds due to the design of roller crimpers which are flat. Fortunately, a roller-crimper was developed that fit our needs. Jeff Moyer at the Rodale Institute developed a roller-crimper designed to work raised beds. Jeff’s design is a 3-part roller-crimper and was being manufactured by I & J Manufacturing (Gap, PA). We purchased this model in the spring of 2013. This roller-crimper is able to be adjusted to follow the contours of our raised beds. We were able to use the roller crimper successfully, however, producing successful crops in the crimped areas was never successful. In our particular coastal zone annual rainfall is around 50 inches much of which is in the form of heavy thundershower. Large rain events, combined with our sandy soil over an impenetrable clay layer make raised beds an important safeguard for plants from water inundation. In the years of this study our farm experienced not only one, but two major hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 (Mathew and Irma) and a major tropical storm (Hermine) in 2016. In the years of the study our farm also experienced two consecutive years of drought. One could not have asked for more challenges to the study than this. Dispite all the setbacks which occurred with the extreme weather for the study period, the results were highly promising.