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What are the benefits of land rolling?
Land is rolled primarily to improve harvest operations. Rollers level and smooth the soil surface so silage and pulse harvesting can be done quickly and with minimized wear and tear on equipment. Another benefit of the smooth soil surface is less potential for "earth tag" or soil on seed which affects crop quality and acceptability in some markets. Rollers also push rocks and other debris down into the soil and reduce the damage these can do to cutter bars and combines. Although a land roller can firm soil and improve seed-soil contact, it should not be relied on as a seedbed finishing tool to provide the packing necessary to ensure even germination.
Are there any negative consequences to rolling land?
Land rolling can have detrimental effects on soil properties and injure growing crops. Rolling pulverizes soil aggregates and leaves a smooth surface making the land susceptible to wind erosion. Soil crusting can also occur if fine textured soils or low organic matter soils are wet when they are rolled. Crops that are emerged or just below the soil surface can be broken or crushed by rolling. Damage to these crops often is not fatal but these injured plants probably will be set back by several days and are susceptible to diseases.
When should land be rolled?
It is best to land roll soon after seeding as long as soil erosion risks are low. Where land is prone to blowing, land rolling after peas or lentils have emerged is the best overall balance between what is best for the land and what is good for the crop. Post emergent rolling on peas should be done when the crop is at the 2-3 node stage, and with lentils the rolling should be completed before the crop passes the 7 node stage. Land rolling does the least damage to crops if completed when soil and leaves are both dry. In most cases rolling in the afternoon or when the crop is slightly wilted is the best time to roll after crop emergence.
Is ballast (water) in the roller necessary?
Experience suggests that, for pushing rocks back into the soil and for smoothing out the soil surface, empty rollers are as effective as rollers that are half full or full of water ballast.
What suggestions are there to help make land rolling successful?
- Delay land rolling if the crop is stressed by heat, drought, frost or herbicide application. Rolling is hard on an emerged crop so it is best to not add another stress to a crop that is already suffering from environmental conditions or other management practices.
- Minimize double rolling. Consider rolling a field round and round rather than back and forth to keep from over-packing turnaround areas.
- Tractor tires potentially can do more damage to the crop than the land roller. Slow down when turning and avoid sharp turns.