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Firm and Flatten

March 23, 2013
By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal Columnist
pC8 Firm and Flatten
Crushing clods and root balls and pressing rocks into the soil in the spring makes it easier on the combine at harvest.  

Field rollers smooth harvest, reduce tire damage

It slices! It dices! It makes Julienne Fries! OK, so field rollers aren’t that versatile, but farmers are finding new uses for the agricultural version of a giant rolling pin.

After planting soybeans, Ed Shafer, of Grimes, Iowa, runs a 60'-wide field roller at 10 mph to crush clods and root balls from his previous corn crop.

"It’s amazing how much just breaking the clods and root balls in the spring reduces the amount of dirt my soybean platform takes into the combine," he says. "I didn’t realize how much wear it was causing to my platform’s cutterbar, until I started rolling fields."

Shafer used to replace a dozen or more sickle sections per week on his combine, trying to keep the sickle sharp. That maintenance dramatically dropped once he started rolling fields.

Marjorie Strandlund of Rite Way Manufacturing, says rocky fields were the genesis for modern field rollers.

"We originally marketed them to smooth fields and press rocks into the soil," Strandlund says, "but farmers keep coming up with new ways and reasons to use them."

Brad Folkers raises continuous corn near Polo, Ill., and rolls his cornfields each winter to eliminate stubble damage to tires. "We harvest with a 12-row, 15" corn head equipped with Stalk Stompers to reduce damage to the combine’s tires," Folkers says. "We wait until the stalks are good and dry, then roll the fields with a 30' roller. We drive the tractor on the rows that were flattened by the Stalk Stompers on the combine and cover two passes of the corn head with the roller."

He says the 42" diameter steel drums on the RiteWay roller he rents each year dramatically reduce tire damage.

"Once we roll it, we can go any direction to chisel plow or spread manure," he says. "It has all the benefits of a stalk chopper without the maintenance and upkeep, plus you can go faster and it doesn’t leave the little stubs that chew up tires.

Flattening stalks against the ground also helps moisture and bacteria start degrading the stalks, he adds.

Seedbed prep. The benefits of land rollers are most often seen in the reduction of combine wear and tear, but as farmers experiment, other advantages are found.

"We have customers rolling wheat ground for better seed-to-soil contact, rolling peat soils to improve seedbed consistency and rolling corn residue to break down corn root balls," says Brian Perkuhn, sales manager for Summers Manufacturing, Maddock, N.D.

Gary Maeze, owner of Custom Made Products in Humboldt, Iowa, sells and rents field rollers to farmers from Utah to Pennsylvania. He says a misconception about modern field rollers is that they "pack the dirt."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Early Spring 2013



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