6 Ways to Plant Cover Crops

  • Explosion in cover crops

    Ten years ago, the seeding options for cover crops were limited primarily to a drill. The recent explosion in cover crops has led to a plethora of seeding innovations, each with its own advantages and challenges.

  • Drill

    A drill is still a great option for seeding cover crops, especially if you’re going in after wheat harvest to plant the cover. This allows you to get the seed established early enough so it has time to grow before winter sets in. Unfortunately, using a drill doesn’t work nearly as well in a corn-soybean or corn-after-corn rotation, particularly in northern regions where the growing season is too short.

  • Air seeder

    Air seeder
    Inventive farmers, like Ray McCormick, are attaching air seeders to combines or tillage equipment, so they can seed while they harvest or perform fall tillage. McCormick uses a smaller-seed cover crop to increase acres per fill. He can seed about 15 acres at a time with one 10-cubic-foot capacity air seeder on his combine.

  • High-clearance sprayer

    High-clearance sprayer
    Throughout most of the Corn Belt, seeding cover crops in the fall can be too late. If this is the case in your area, one option is to use a high-clearance sprayer with an air seeder. For the past two years, Beck’s Hybrids Practical Farm has tested a prototype system from Hagie Manufacturing that is now available on 2007 and newer STS Hagie sprayers.

  • Airplane

    An aerial application is a low-maintenance option for applying cover crops. A local applicator can seed cover crops in late summer or early fall when you’re busy preparing for harvest. The key is getting a rain after applying to help the seeds germinate. “You have to catch a rain,” says Jamie Scott, Indiana farmer. “If you drill, apply with a high-boy sprayer, or apply with an airplane, you will have that issue.”

  • Interseeder

    Agronomists at Penn State University developed the Interseeder to encourage more farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to plant cover crops. The Interseeder can plant cover crops between rows of corn and, at the same time, spray a postemergent herbicide and apply fertilizer to help establish the cover crop.

  • Rowbot

    Interseeding is the general term used to describe going into standing corn or soybeans and putting in cover crops. Beyond sprayers and the Interseeder, interseeding can be accomplished with autonomous equipment like the Rowbot. The Rowbot, a 2x7-foot diesel-powered, articulated robot, can interseed cover crops in standing corn as well as apply nitrogen fertilizer.

Discover the best seeding method to work cover crops into your crop rotation.

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