1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Roller (agriculture)

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ROLLER. For agricultural purposes the roller formerly consisted of a solid cylinder of timber or stone attached to a frame and shafts, but to facilitate turning two or more iron cylinders revolving on an axle are now generally used. The simplest form has a smooth surface. The diameter of the drum should be as great as possible—30 in. being a good size—because the larger this is the more easily it is pulled (within certain limits), while rollers of small diameter are heavier of draught and do their work less efhciently. The implement is used in spring and summer as an aid in pulverizing and cleaning the soil, by bruising clods and lumps of tangled roots and earth which the cultivator or other implement has brought to the surface; in smoothing the surface for the reception of small seeds or the better operation of the mower or reaper; in consolidating soil that is too loose in texture and pressing it down about the roots of young plants. In the case of young plants the roots are close to the surface, which must therefore be kept moist. This end is attained by the compression by the roller of the top-soil of which the capillarity, i.e. the power of drawing water from the sub-soil is thereby increased. On the other hand, when it is desired to conserve the soil-moisture, the roller may be followed by the harrow, which, by pulverizing the surface-soil, breaks the capillarity. Of the variations on the common smooth roller, the clod-crusher and the Cambridge roller are the most important. The clod-crusher combines weight with breaking power. The best-known form was patented about 1841 by Crosskill, and consists of a number of disks with serrated edges threaded loosely on an axle round which they revolve. The Cambridge roller carries on its axle a number of closely packed wheels, the rims of which narrow down to a wedge shape. The tubular roller, instead of drums, has tubes arranged longitudinally, producing a corrugated surface which is reproduced in the condition of the soil after it has been rolled.