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Farmers Show High Interest in Cover Crops

Keen interest in cover crops attracted farmers to attend the opening session of the Tools of the Future conference held Monday in Ankeny, Iowa. 

“We are seeing huge interest in the use of self-propelled applicators in seeding cover crops in corn,” Rachel Halbach reported during her presentation on cover crops. “A number of farmers who have experimented with this method report a high success rate in getting cover crops established prior to harvest.”

Halbach, who is an agronomist with Hagie Manufacturing, explained that the company has been working with a Gandy Orbit Air 66 series dry box to distribute seed down booms. “We commonly have seen farmers using applicators with a 60-foot boom. However, we have two customers that are using applicators with booms as wide as 90 feet.”

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There are farmer concerns with operating in corn late in the season. “But one Indiana farmer cooperator reported that last season he seeded cover crops in some of the tallest corn he had ever grown and didn’t have any problems,” Halbach pointed out. “Other farmers have noted that they reduced travel speed down to 5 to 6 miles an hour to avoid knocking ears off. Also, we encourage farmers using an applicator to put down seed to add shields and guards to their sprayer to avoid both crop and applicator damage.” 

Cover Crop Boosts Corn Yields

A Wellman, Iowa, farmer’s belief in cover crops is based on the huge yield advantage the practice delivers. Steve Berger now plants cover crops on 100% of his acres with the purpose of improving soil structure as well as boosting yields. “Farmers find that aspect of cover crops surprising . . . that they boost yields,” Berger told the audience attending Successful Farming magazine's Tools of the Future conference held Monday in Ankeny, Iowa. 

“But cover crops have definitely contributed to our corn yields.” Berger reports yields as high as 260 bushels per acre in fields covered with cereal rye. “To reach such yields, you must pay a lot of attention to your planter’s adjustments. It is crucial your planter is operating at peak performance and is adjusted to operate in a cover crop,” Berger adds. “Also, nitrogen management is important as well. You never want the crop shorted on nitrogen. You want plenty of nitrogen on the field surface to get corn off to a good start in the spring.”

Berger reported to the Tools of the Future crowd that he has seen the organic matter content of his fields steadily increase because of the use of cover crops. “We see a little less than a .1% increase in organic matter each yield due to cover crops,” he added.

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