What do you get when you combine a swing-tongue haybine, a cultivator bar and an anhydrous ammonia tank? A roller that smashes cornstalks and levels animal mounds and other bumps behind your no-till drill, says Loran Steinlage in his entry to FARM JOURNAL's "I Built the Best” contest.
The West Union, Iowa, farmer built his 15½' roller—which he pulls behind his 16' John Deere 1560—mostly from materials he already had on hand. His 12-year-old son, Rolan, helped him.
The roller is made from a 1,500-gal. anhydrous ammonia tank, with 7⁄16" steel walls. It rotates on a 2½" shaft.
Steinlage mounted the shaft on the frame of a three-point-mounted cultivator.
The cultivator toolbar attaches to the frame of a John Deere 1525 haybine, using bolt holes that originally held the haybine head. Steinlage can reassemble the haybine if he ever needs it.
Steinlage made a scraper for the roller from plastic deck board. It slides into mounts made from a leftover piece of the cultivator toolbar. He made a hitch for the drill, which fits over the centering pin on the drill's weight bracket. He plans to add safety lights and turn signals.
The roller provides 500 lb. of weight per foot of row—about the same as commercially manufactured rollers, Steinlage says. "When the roller is in operating mode, the wheels float and all of the weight is transferred to the tank,” he points out.
If he needs more weight, he can hang suitcase weights on the roller. "Putting water in the tank wouldn't work very well on hills because the water would run to the lower side,” he says.
Although the photo shows a larger tractor, Steinlage usually pulls the drill and roller with a 105-hp machine. "You don't even know the roller is back there,” he says. The haybine's hydraulically operated swinging tongue helps him guide the roller into fields and driveways.
Steinlage got the idea for a roller from farmers operating in the Northern Plains. "About30% to 40% of farmers in this area run a roller, in a separate pass after they no-till drill,” explains Dwayne Beck, manager of South Dakota State University's Dakota Lakes Research Farm.
Northern Plains farmers who use conventional tillage or hoe-type no-till openers use a roller to push rocks back into the ground, Beck adds. "You get the same effect with cornstalks, pushing them down flat,” he says.
"That effect may be more important with a drill than with a corn planter,” Beck continues. "With drilling, there's more room between soybean plants.
That causes them to set their first pod closer to the ground [where it is more difficult to combine].”
Some farmers use rollers to flatten gopher mounds when bringing Conservation Reserve Program fields back into production, Beck adds. "Getting lumps out of the field is the biggest reason no-till farmers use rollers.”
Using a roller probably won't increase soybean yield unless there's a problem with your drill's closing wheels and covering wheels, Beck says.