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Tools Suited to the Task

December 14, 2013
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
DSC 9244
Designed by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, this interseeder can be used in crops planted on 30" rows and features double-disk drill openers spaced 7.5" apart. It can also apply herbicide and nitrogen.   

Cover crop interseeders help hurdle the time crunch

Cover crops are gaining ground in the U.S., but their adoption has not been without a number of bumps. Planting the crops on a timely basis is a top challenge farmers have wrangled with along the way.

New machinery options are looking to solve the time crunch in getting cover crops off to a strong start.

"Often, grain harvests are so late, there’s little to no opportunity to no-till drill cover crops here," explains Ron Hoover, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) coordinator of on-farm research. "Farmers could go to shorter season corn, but there is concern they’ll give up some yield if they do, so interseeding is a good option."

To maximize corn yields and cover crop success, farmers are eyeing interseeders that will plant the cover crop beneath the canopy of the standing crop. For example, researchers at PSU have developed an interseeder implement and the team at Hagie Manufacturing has developed two seeding attachments for its high-clearance, self-propelled machines.

Multiple methods.  Hoover says PSU  researchers developed an interseeder that can perform up to three jobs at one time. This interseeder is designed for use in crops planted on 30" rows and features double-disk drill openers spaced 7.5" apart. As farmers plant, they can also broadcast postemergence herbicides beneath the corn canopy and apply sidedress nitrogen in a high-pressure stream about 4" off the row.

PSU researchers estimate that farmers can save between $20 and $30 an acre in labor, machinery and fuel costs by performing the three tasks at one time versus doing them individually.

Two common threads in interseeding cover crops are eliminating the challenge of planting into heavy corn residue and trying to be more efficient with each machinery pass.

Since 2012, Hagie Manufacturing has been working to develop a way to maximize its high-clearance machine with an interseeder attachment. So far, the company has come up with two types of systems. With the air boom version, the solution tank is replaced with an 80 cu. ft. dry box and the boom is rigged with the necessary tubing to broadcast below the crop canopy. The second system uses the Hagie nitrogen toolbar but replaces the coulters with seeding attachments and rolling baskets to incorporate the seed.

The company has worked with trials using ryegrass, radishes, sudangrass and several mixes.

"Interseeding machines provide farmers with a solution beyond aerial application," says Rachel Halbach, agronomist with Hagie Manufacturing. "In our small-scale trials we’ve seen greater stand establishment, even at lower seeding rates, when using an on-ground interseeder compared with an airplane."

The air boom broadcast system fits on a 60' or 90' boom. The retrofitted toolbar for interseeding is 40' wide.

"We are able to run 8 mph to 10 mph in standing crop," Halbach says. "So far, we think the more ground our operators can cover in less time, the more successful they will be using their machines for this operation."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-December 2013

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