Rolling soybeans

The usage of land rollers has changed quite a bit over the past handful of years. Commonly known as a method of rolling rocks down into the ground and out of headers or the inside of combines, land rollers are now being used by some farmers during the post-emerge stage, particularly with soybeans.

“The typical use of land rollers has been rolling right after you plant or sometime between planting and emergence, but what the universities have been seeing are some very positive results when going in and rolling at the 2-3 leaf stage,” said Bruce Johnson, director of innovation at Summers Manufacturing.

                The post-emergence rolling acts as a stressor of the plant, causing it to branch out and ultimately create higher pod counts, and furthermore, higher top-end yield potential.

“The numbers we’re hearing from university studies is they’re seeing a pod count increase of 25-30 percent,” Johnson said. “That said, an increase in pod count doesn’t necessarily correlate to an increase in yield, but it does move that top-end potential up. You still need the nutrients and moisture to fill those pods.”

The window for this practice is a delicate one. Farmers can’t be too early or too late, making sure they go in at the optimal time where they can stress the plant without having negative side effects to it.

Land rolling started more with lentils and got adopted with soybeans more recently. The practice originated in Canada before coming to the U.S., and for a lot of years was referred to as rock rolling. The last few years has seen the adoption of land rollers being used in areas that don’t have a lot of rocks, but instead are utilized to break up root balls and dirt clumps to create a nice, clean harvest bed.

“The big benefit of that is not only are you going to keep the rocks out of the combine, but you keep all that dirt out of the combine as well,” he said. “The practice has been adopted pretty heavily across the Dakotas and Minnesota. We’re also seeing it move further into the Corn Belt.”

Farmers utilizing land rollers are seeing other benefits as well, such as faster emergence due to the fact they’re increasing the seed-to-soil contact.

“They’ll report to us that they’re seeing 2-3 day faster emergence in their crops,” Johnson said. “In some areas that’s not a big deal, but like up in the Northern Plains where you have a shorter growing season, it can make a difference, especially if you have a late spring.”

Johnson says he’s spoken with more and more farmers who are interested in experimenting with the practice of rolling a portion of their soybean acres post-emerge.

“We have a few growers that are willing to try it with a few acres, but they’re not going to jump in the first year and roll 5,000 acres of beans that way. They’ll try it with a few acres and measure the results. The big question comes down to how busy they are and if they can hit it at the right window,” he said.

“The downside of not getting your beans rolled and missing the window is you end up with the field unrolled and then you have to deal with the rocks and root balls come harvest. The biggest deterrents of rolling post-emerge is in the event you hit a rainy spell and you can’t hit that window to get them rolled, then you’re stuck with an unrolled field,” Johnson added.