Ben Poggioli is a mixed-cropping farmer who has moved from a full-width to inter-row crimp roller so that he can better control weeds and improve soil health.
The design of an inter-row crimp roller allows him to retain sections of a cover crop. He and his family have seen an increase in the soil's organic matter and in its capacity to hold moisture - a big benefit for dryland farming.
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Used in cover crops all around the world, the crimp roller is a drum with a series of blades that lays a crop flat and crimps stems, ending its growth while creating a weed-suppressing mulch mat. The mat is then used to plant the next crop into, with the benefit of also protecting the soil and reducing the use of herbicides.
Ben’s design is different – the inter-row roller allows him to focus on sections of his crop. The drum is also smaller, with a 300-400mm diameter as compared to a more standard 1.2m diameter.
“This gives you the ability to be able to terminate the crop where you want to plant your crop for the coming season and leave some of the cover crop growing on the inter-row so it keeps the soil alive and leaves plants there,’’ he says.
“Then I can come back later and terminate the rest of the crop on the inter-row.”
During his time using the new crimp roller Ben has seen an increase in the soil’s organic matter and in its capacity to hold moisture - a big benefit for dryland farming areas such as parts of his farm at Tolga on the Atherton Tableland.
“I feel it will (also) help to control weeds down the track,’’ he says. “If we’ve got a nice mat of organic matter we should be able to control weeds better.
“Another benefit is it is going to be fairly cheap to run – you don’t need a big tractor to pull a six-row unit around the field…and if you can decrease your herbicide usage there is a saving there.”
The third-generation Tolga farmer grows peanuts, potatoes, sugar cane and corn in partnership with his father and brother. He uses wheat as a cover crop and follows minimum tillage practices.
“I’ve already seen great benefits (from initiatives such as strip tillage) including better soil health. The more organic matter that can be put back into the soil the better soil health is going to be.
“I’ve just been using wheat at this point. There are turnips and other veggies used in other parts of the world. Another part of the process is trying to find the best cover crop to suit what we are trying to do.”
The trial is the result of Terrain NRM’s Reef Rescue Innovation Funding program. The program, which was funded by the Australian Government, helps growers to develop their ideas through on-farm trial projects. It also helps them to link with technical advice, identify and overcome barriers to developing innovations and bring proven ideas into the mainstream.