For about three years, I have wanted to try a land roller. The first year, I didn’t know where to find one. Last year it didn’t stop raining, so it wasn’t an option. This year we were finally able to rent one for a few days and give it a whirl.
So, what is a land roller? It’s an overgrown version of a yard roller. The purpose can be to break up clods, knock rocks into the ground, firm the seed bed, or disintegrate previous crop residue. It seems like rolling a field would do the exact opposite of what we work for all year, which is to reduce compaction. But, I’m told the actual pressure on the ground is lighter than that of a footprint.
The function I was wanting the roller to perform is to aid in harvest. It may sound weird to be thinking about harvest at planting time. However, when a field is flat and free of hazards, harvest should go smoother with less downtime for repairs and less old crop debris going through the machine. The combine header can get a closer shave to the ground, and the reduced residue will decrease cutter bar wear and keep dust out of the grain sample.
We targeted three fields that were either rocky or had lots of residue. One field was vertical tilled in the fall, one field had not been worked at all, and the third field had full tillage (we turned up rocks when chiseling).
In the first field we chased the planter with the roller. Rocks were beat flat and the seed was ‘tucked in’. The second field we ran the roller across first to knock the residue flat and smash it up. The third field the soybeans were at V1 growth stage, rocks were again beat down with that wonderful sounding ‘clank’.
As I did some research, some growers believe that rolling the beans can cause stress which will increase yield by causing the beans to be branch out and be a bushy plant. Though that’s not the reason we rolled, we left a test strip to find out. It seems most growers who roll beans do so at planting, and up to V2 growth stage.
We didn’t get carried away with the amount of acres we rolled as some guys think rolling fields can contribute to soil erosion. We wanted to test the water and draw some conclusions for ourselves.