Making Roller Crimping a Reality in the Southwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $9,155.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dale Rhoads
Rhoads Farm
Joran Viers
New Mexico State University


  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization, carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Water savings and holding soil in place are two important environmental concerns of western farming. Roller crimping an overwintered cover crop into a in-place mulch assists with these concerns and also can provide up to 70% or more weed control, as well as bringing soil building into the growing process.

    For the past several years I have done experiments with, and last year worked on a SARE-funded project on, using crimping in the southwest. I am the first and only person crimping trials in New Mexico. Several New Mexico state ag people (Steve Gulden of NM Alcade Sustainable Research Farm, who served as TA for the 2011-2012 project, and Joran Viers, Bernalillo County Ag Educator) have been interested in attempting crimper trials. Mr. Viers, who serves as this year's TA, is using this to educate his extension office field hands on to prepare for crimping trials in 2014. Mr. Gulden is interested in getting his New Mexico State research farm, along with several local farmers in 2014, to attempt crimping based on these trials results.

    Joania Quinn of New Mexico Organic Program has invited me to speak at the NM Ag Conference in February of 2013 and 2014 about last year's and these new trials.

    The main goal of this year's trials is showing researchers and a few farmers how to begin using this technique that has been beneficial in other areas. In order to accomplish this, there will be field trials. The field trials are with two distinct treatments - an overwintered rye cover crop crimped into an in-place mulch and an area where the cover crop is incorporated into the ground before planting and conventional weeding techniques used. In this replicated trial there will be 22 different vegetables, herbs and flowers tested. These represent all of the major plant families in terms of growing habits and needs. Also part of the trials is to try three different methods of growing squash in a crimped area, as squash and that family have shown some problems in other trials in the past.

    The outreach includes a website, NMSU and regional state websites, researchers and farmers visiting, or their receiving an e-mail, or by their attending two conferences in two different locations.

    Replicated Field Trials Details

    There are 60 3‘x10’ plots in six rows 100'long. Thirty of those plots will have winter rye cover crimped into an in-place mulch. Thirty plots will have the winter cover incorporated into the soil. In the 60 plot test areas, there will be 10 plots of different market crops, times three replications, per the two test areas of crimped and incorporated winter cover crop. The 10 plant family plots will be planted in three replications in both the crimped and uncrimped conventional areas and contain:

    *Summer squash planted in crimped cover.
    *Squash planted in crimped cover with the cover removed 1’ around the plant.
    *Squash planted in the crimped cover that has the cover pulled back 1’ from plant and ground tilled 6” deep 1’ around. (I know squash does better in tilled non-crimped areas. Why? Some plant specialists have theorized it is soil ‘looseness,’ others soil temperature. This test should show why and how to mix tilling and crimping to grow Cucurbitaceae to maximize weed control and plant growth.)
    *Cantaloupe grown in crimped cover.
    *Tomato/Bell Pepper/Green Chili
    *Floss Flower/Bachelors Button/Pinks
    *Carrot/Beet/late potato

    The following data will be collected, analyzed and perhaps published by TA:

    *Soil tests three times in the season: pre-crimping, after planting and end of season.
    *Soil compaction measured three times. (This will be the third season of the crimped area to not be tilled or disturbed, yielding good data on soil compaction.)
    *Harvest size.
    *Weed pressure/time in weed control.
    *Labor times to measure installation and weeding costs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goals of this grant are:

    *Get researchers interested in trying crimping.
    *Get interested farmers data and a project that they can see.
    *Inform farmers that may not be interested about this technique (the old saying...ya gotta hear something seven times before you listen routine).
    *Gather field data through replicated field trials with a wide variety of plant family and plant types representative of the major vegetable crops in the southwest.
    *Gather more specific data about why squash has problems with crimping, based on several years of trials by Rhoads.
    *To meet all these goals easily. Get ‘er done in 2013!

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.