jwehrspann, Senior Editor

July 16, 2015

2 Min Read
<p>This cover crop seeder from Valmar can be mounted on vertical tillage equipment.</p>

It’s hard to pick up a farm magazine these days without finding an article on cover crops. Why you should plant them, when you should plant them, and what should you plant to put nutrients back in the soil.

They help reduce soil erosion. Their roots break up compaction. And they can fix nutrients so they don’t get washed away, and they put some in while they’re at it.

But now, let’s get down to the mechanics of how to plant them and get that seed to the ground. That’s where it gets fun because there’s a whole lot of innovation and wheel spinning on that front. Seeders are being paired with vertical tillage equipment, combines are working double-duty as seeders, and sprayers, dry boxes and even robots are applying them as they would fertilizer.

Tim Duckert, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University Extension, says the method used will effect seed germination rate and stand quality, so it’s important to choose wisely.

“Using equipment that allows accurate application at the correct rate will save money and help ensure sufficient cover,” states Duckert in a bulletin called Cover crop seeding methods and equipment. “Since cover crop seed sizes and weights vary, it is important to match equipment to both the seed and management practice.”

In his bulletin, he outlines the four basic methods: Broadcast by air, broadcast by ground, incorporation, or drilling.

“There are many variations on these methods,” Duckert writes. “Watch different equipment in action on farms and at farm shows. Every piece of equipment is different, and individual farm needs depend on the management system in use.”

He offers these helpful hints:

-No matter what seeding equipment is used, an agitator in the seed box is essential when using grass seeds. The agitator prevents bridging and keeps seeds flowing uniformly.

-A slower-turning metering unit and a larger feedout opening reduce seed grinding and cracking.

You can read Duckert’s article in full here

If looking at where to buy equipment, here are just a few resources:

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About the Author(s)


Senior Editor, Farm Industry News

Jodie has been a journalist for 15 years, specializing in machinery, technology and precision farming. Prior to Farm Industry News, she worked as a research analyst/editor for Rockwood Research, the former research arm of Farm Journal Media.

Jodie has won numerous writing awards including the Master Writer Program Award, Level IV, from the American Agricultural Editor's Association (AAEA). She has also been recognized for her technical writing skills by the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the Minnesota Magazines and Publications Association. Jodie is an active member of AAEA and currently serves on the board.

A former native of Montevideo, MN, Jodie earned a B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota and a Masters degree in Business Communications from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

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