Soybean Field Rolling May Help You Increase Harvest Efficiency, Says Extension Agronomist

Would you like to increase your harvest efficiency by minimizing equipment damage, producing cleaner beans and increasing the number of acres you can harvest in a day? According to North Dakota Extension Agronomist Greg Endres, field rolling enables soybean farmers to do just that.

“The operation pushes rocks down to the soil surface, breaks soil clods and corn rootballs if corn was the previous crop in the field and also levels the soil to allow the combine cutter bars to cut as close to the soil as possible,” says Endres. “This minimizes equipment damage, reduces combine operator stress and potentially produces more beans that are cleaner – all increasing harvest efficiency.”

Endres discussed the two options that offer the best times for field rolling:

1. After planting but before plants emerge. This is the ideal timing. Rolling at this time causes minimal plant injury, but increases the risk of soil susceptibility to wind and water erosion.

2. After plants emerge. If the plants have already emerged at the time of the operation, you can still roll your fields, but the plants will be more susceptible to injury. Endres recommends that if you do roll at this time, make sure to do it when the soil and plant surfaces are dry, and at the warmest time of the day when the plants are more flexible. Endres says this will result in less injury to the plants. Farmers should roll before the first trifoliate stage to minimize plant injury and allow more plant recovery time.

“The major concern with field rolling is plant injury, which could later have potential for plant lodging and disease, but research has indicated no significant stand or yield loss for fields that use the rolling operation,” says Endres. “Farmers have to make sure they pay attention to the proper soil and plant conditions.”

There are costs with rolling soybean fields, including purchase price of the roller and fuel. But what farmers gain with field rolling is an increase in the amount of seed harvested, as well as saving time and possibly labor and combine repair costs.

“It’s difficult to put an accurate number on dollar per acre for what farmers are gaining with rolling soybean fields,” he adds, “but it is very common and ultimately provides gains for the growers.”

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