Combining roller crimpers and flaming for the termination of cover crops in herbicide-free no-till cropping systems

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 7;14(2):e0211573. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211573. eCollection 2019.


The termination of cover crops in conventional no-till systems is mostly conducted mechanically in combination with herbicides. Combining flaming and roller crimpers could be a viable solution to avoid using herbicides for cover crop termination in farming systems where herbicides are banned, or at least to reduce their use in an integrated management approach. This research tested the effects of flaming used in combination with three different types of roller crimpers to terminate a fall-sown cover crop mixture of winter pea and barley. The cover crop termination rate was visually assessed in terms of percentage of green cover provided by cover crop plants at different intervals from the termination date, and estimated using a log-logistic non-linear regression model with four parameters. Machine performance data are also reported. The results show that, irrespective of the roller type, flaming significantly boosted the effect of the roller crimpers. In fact, an economic threshold for cover crop suppression of 85% was reached only when the rollers were used in combination with flaming. Nevertheless, none of the methods were able to reach the 100% of cover crop suppression. In some case, the combined use of flaming and roller crimpers allowed reaching the 90% of cover crop devitalisation, which happened six weeks after the termination date. More importantly, the use of flaming in combination with rollers shortened the time needed to achieve the estimated levels of devitalisation, compared with the rollers used alone. We conclude that flaming is an effective tool to increase the effectiveness of roller crimpers. Nevertheless, further research is needed to identify solutions to overcome the barrier of the high operational costs of flaming, which is constraining its wider adoption by farmers. Future studies could focus, for instance, on the development of a new prototype of combined machine for crimping and flaming the cover crops simultaneously, which could potentially reduce the operational costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / economics
  • Agriculture / instrumentation*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Rain
  • Seasons
  • Temperature

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR) under the project “Integration and comparison of innovative technical approaches with different ‘ecological intensification’ finalized to a smart management of conservative agricultural systems.” (Project code: RBFR13L8J6). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.