Renewable Farming

Good moisture this spring makes crimping cereal rye a safer bet for soybeans

One technique to spend more management and less cash for weed control is fall-drilling cereal rye, then crimping it at pollen shed and planting directly into the crimped rye. A thick stand of rye — seeded at 100 pounds per acre or so — restrains weeds while soybeans emerge and shade the ground.

June 2, 2020 — The Rodale Institute helped develop the roller-crimper in the 1990s. Compared with a smooth roller, it has the advantage of shutting down xylem tube circulation in stems of the cover crop. Crimping cereal rye for a clear-cut kill must wait for pollen shed, a growth phase called anthesis. For details on timing, see this article by Nick Ohde and Danela Jokela on the Practical Farmers of Iowa website. 

The crimping implement shown in the photo below is working on Windy Lane Farm near Mulberry, Indiana. Hal Brown sent us this picture with the comment that crimping is a way he’s intending to save herbicide costs this season. He adds, “It’s our rookie year doing this… we may be a hero, or a zero.”

Hal and his son Ty planted into the crimped rye with their no-till Horsch planter. 

Some growers plant corn or beans into standing rye, then run the crimper before the crop emerges. This narrows the window between crimping and shading the middles with a growing crop.

Organic growers make a major effort to refine their techniques for using rye as a mulch to inhibit weeds and build soil carbon. The idea depends a lot on the season: A dry spring means that the rye can sponge up moisture needed to germinate and grow the cash crop. So far this spring, much of the corn and soybean belt has had good rainfall.

Crimping cereal rye on Windy Lane Farm, Mulberry, Indiana