By Erika Mathieu
Farming Smarter held their annual Field School on June 15 in Lethbridge County.
The curriculum kicked off in the morning with a talk by Dr. Gurbir Dhillon on ongoing projects exploring the results of roller crimping fall rye and seeding barley behind the crimper. The project examines the viability and outcomes of roller crimping cover crops under southern Alberta growing conditions.
Roller crimping is achieved by machines affixed with a rolling drum and blunt blades which crimps and damages plant stems when it is driven over a cover crop, resulting in a blanket of biomass which can aid in weed suppression and terminate cover crops without needing to till or use chemical herbicides.
Executive Director of Farming Smarter, Ken Coles said, “this is our first year doing this and with a fall rye cover crop, we are hitting anthesis often in that first week of June, so it almost matches a dry bean seeding system. So there is a couple of factors. This is a proven technique in other areas but there’s some real fine tuning that needs to happen here to match the conditions in southern Alberta.”
Coles said the team has been considering the impact of earlier maturing cereals like winter oats or winter barley as alternatives for example, which, “do actually survive in a small area here in southern Alberta, and they do get to that anthesis point earlier, so that is one way of looking at matching the timing to the effectiveness of termination of the crimper, but we are also looking at other methods of termination as well including herbicides and strip tillage.”
Speaking on the research findings so far, Coles said, “We were actually able to seed through it quite nicely. I know it sounds weird to put barley into a cereal cover crop, but at the same time we learned that roller crimping too soon doesn’t really hurt the crop at all,” and said it is possible to use that to their advantage by being able to seed first and going back in with the roller crimper after. Both Dhillon and Coles said there is still a lot of different approaches to test out in the future.
“We have got a lot of people really trying to cut back on glyphosate because of resistance issues as well, so I think there are more and more motivators to play around with approaches like what we have talked about,” added Coles.
Farming Smarter also hosted the free Advanced Nitrogen Management and Cover Crops Tour on June 22, and is gearing up for a plot hop event on July 13 and Open Farm Days on Aug. 19. For more information, visit https://www.farmingsmarter.com/.