Graft, Roll, Crimp, Crush, and Strip: A Few of the Steps included in an Ongoing Study

Every production technology or technique has pros and cons. Occasionally, using two techniques or technologies simultaneously may offset their individual disadvantages and make it easier to use both. This is one idea behind our evaluating the combined use of reduced tillage and grafted vegetable plants. While both have clear benefits, their counterparts (conventional tillage featuring highly worked, often pulverized soil and standard single-variety transplants) are standard. Cost, timing, familiarity, and other obstacles have limited the use of reduced tillage and grafted plants.

In 2016, we completed an experiment in Wooster comparing the performance of grafted and standard tomato transplants in no-till and strip-till plots established in wheat seeded in Fall-2015. We reported three results in VegNet, at the OPGMA Growers Congress, and in a report to the OVSFRDP: 1) yields were higher in strip-till plots than in no-till ones, 2) grafted plants out-yielded ungrafted ones in both tillage systems, and 3) yield was greatest in strip-till plots containing grafted plants. We are repeating the experiment in 2017 to see if those trends hold under other conditions. Plants representing three rootstock-scion combinations were grafted three weeks ago and the ‘Hopewell’ wheat was rolled/crimped/crushed on May 17. Weather-permitting, on May 22, a PTO-driven rototiller will be used to create ten-inch wide strips of soil tilled to six inches deep in some areas and herbicide will be applied in a two-foot wide band centered on each strip. They and the no-till plots will be transplanted on May 23.

Rye, rye/vetch mixes, and other crops are better than wheat for no-till/reduced-till (including strip) vegetable production. We are using wheat partly because it may be one crop that growers can experiment with easily since it is abundant. We have used a PTO-driven rototiller (with outer tines removed) for a similar reason. True strip-till units are currently above our budget. Therefore, like growers, we experiment with equipment on hand. The goal has been to describe what happens when ‘alternative’ approaches are used and to improve our use of them. Input from growers continues to be very helpful in the process. Overall, given the documented benefits and challenges associated with using grafted plants and reduced-till approaches, using them together may be particularly useful. Look for updates on the study, stop by to visit, or contact Matt Kleinhenz ( or Zheng Wang ( for more information. The pictures below show the roller/crimper at work and the condition of the wheat at and after the process. Paper clips on wheat stems show locations of damage due to rolling/crimping.

2 thoughts on “Graft, Roll, Crimp, Crush, and Strip: A Few of the Steps included in an Ongoing Study

  1. Do you think doing strip till for pumpkins would yield a better crop verses complete no-till into rye ? My heavy clay soil that I have effects the germination I believe .

  2. Hello, Tom.

    Thanks for your question on May 21.

    Strip-till may give a better stand (germination/emergence), especially if conditions are favorable soon after planting. Creating the strip should give a better seedbed and a small area in which the young root system can establish. Together, those should support rapid early growth and set the stage for a better crop. However, as you know, clay soils can be tricky. E.g., I am not sure how the strip-tilled seedbed would respond to heavy rain.

    If you are able, try a side by side comparison of no-till and strip-till seedings. Alternate blocks or rows of each approach to give some replication across the whole crop. You may see what others have – i.e., that strip-till includes a little of the best of no- and conventional tillage. For some, that has resulted in greater yield in strip versus no tillage.

    Good luck and stay in touch.


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