A 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops

Interseeding Cover Crops
When considering whether to integrate cover crops and interseeding in a farming or consulting strategy, there are three key steps that may help farmers and their trusted advisors in this process.

As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are looking to interseeding cover crops. The practice has proven itself as an effective way to enrich soils with various nutrients, preserve moisture, and fight the effects of water and wind erosion, all leading to improved soil health and increased sustainability.

The concept of interseeding isn’t new, and a form of interseeding, known as intercropping, is quite common in some regions of the world, such as Africa. In these areas, farmers plant multiple crops in the same field, which helps minimize risk and protect producers from total crop failure. Although this practice isn’t as common in the U.S., there are some growers who interseed soybeans into a wheat field prior to harvest.

According to cover crop surveys conducted by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), cover crop usage has more than doubled throughout the last five years. It’s likely that most of these cover crops were planted after removing the previous crop, but many are beginning to see the benefits of interseeding cover in-season. This allows the cover crop to get a head start, very important in northern states where colder temperatures set in early in the fall, shortly after corn and soybean harvest.

For the most part, interseeding is typically used for cover crops that will not be harvested but instead, will be incorporated into the soil for long-term benefits. When considering whether to integrate cover crops and interseeding in a farming or consulting strategy, the following three steps may help.

Step 1 – Establish Objectives

Different cover crops can be used to achieve different results. For example, cereal rye offers a natural defense against weeds while leguminous crops add nitrogen, potentially saving on herbicide and fertilizer application time and costs, respectively.

The first step in creating a cover cropping plan is to have the grower define his or her goals for the process. This will help determine what cover crops can help meet these goals and also will determine the appropriate timing and method of application. Many university extension personnel will be able to make cover crop recommendations based on research that show which species and varieties are best suited for a region. There may also be incentives and opportunities for cost-share projects through the state or the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will help guide practices, seed selection, and timing.

Step 2 – Consider Climate

Each area of the country brings unique considerations for crop choice as well as timing. In either extreme, whether the warmer climates of the South or colder climates of the North, cover crops must be selected and timed appropriately. For example, some cover crops can become weeds or require chemical control if they are prone to overwintering, while others are simple to control and will die at the first frost.

When objectives have been outlined and timing taken into consideration, the grower may now choose the method of interseeding, which can be simplified into three main methods.

Step 3 – Choose a Method

Although interseeding is becoming more common, it is not without challenges. The method that is chosen will vary for each grower according to the equipment and services available.

Option 1 – By Air
A small airplane can be used to broadcast seed into an existing crop. Many aerial applicators are set up to spread dry products, including cover crop seed. While an aerial application may be slightly more expensive than ground-based services, the advantage is that interseeding via airplane can be done at any stage in the growing process – regardless of how tall the current crop is.

Potential disadvantages include not having enough moisture in the soil or forecast to ensure successful germination and establishment since the seeds are not incorporated. There is also no guarantee that all the seeds will even reach the soil, as some may get tied up in the canopy of the currently growing crop. For this reason, many will apply a higher rate of seed to compensate, further increasing application costs.

Option 2 – By Drawn Implement
A drawn implement, offered by various manufacturers, can also be used to apply seed with a standard tractor. These implements feature seed openers that create a trench between crop rows, offering direct placement into the soil, and closing wheels or chains to ensure good seed-to-soil contact

The advantage of interseeding with a drawn implement is planting effectiveness. Placing the seed directly in the soil offers the best opportunity for germination and a healthy plant stand. These implements, in combination with rate controllers and tractors equipped with GPS guidance, can deliver accurate plant populations directly between the rows, increasing the chances for a successful cover.

The biggest limitation of this option is correct timing with an existing crop. The tractor and implement don’t offer much clearance, so the process must be done in early stages of crop growth or in smaller stature crops, such as soybean or wheat. If a grower waits too long, he or she risks mechanically damaging a crop’s above- and below-ground structures, and possibly reducing yield potential.

Option 3 – By Self-Propelled Machine
With the growing popularity of interseeding cover crops, manufacturers are starting to offer equipment designed for the process. Hagie Manufacturing, in partnership with Fennig Equipment, offers a unique setup for this purpose.

Newer Hagie sprayers are equipped with a removable wet tank that can be replaced with a dry tank manufactured by Fennig Equipment. The Hagie Cover Crop Interseeder uses a high-clearance STS applicator with the dry box option and existing boom for below-canopy broadcast seeding. The Commodity Delivery System (CDS) further adds interseeding capabilities to a Hagie’s current sprayer boom with a drop tube featuring spreader fans that distribute the seed near the soil surface.

The advantage of interseeding with Hagie equipment is the clearance offered, opening the window of time the process can be performed. The Hagie equipment is able to clear taller crops and can be used later in a growing season. Another distinct advantage with this method is that cover crop seed can also be applied later in the season, limiting yield loss due to competition with an existing crop.

Similar to aerial applications, a challenge of this option is ensuring good seed-to-soil contact since the seed is not incorporated like it would be with a drawn implement. However, a key difference is that a rate can be more accurately applied since the seed is not falling onto the crop canopy and is instead being distributed directly on the soil surface, saving in seed and application costs compared to aerial application.

The bottom line for interseeding success goes back to understanding the grower and his or her unique business – the goals they wish to achieve, the timing needed for best results, and the method that makes the most sense for their farm.

The practice of interseeding cover crops is expected to continue its growth and expansion across the country. Because it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, growers will continue to look to agronomists and advisors to make sure it’s done successfully.

To learn more about interseeding equipment and strategies from RDO Equipment Co., contact your local store.

Leave a Reply

Service Providers Stories
PrecisionAg InstituteThe PrecisionAg Institute Partners
October 1, 2017
Learn more about the companies that have committed their corporate and financial support to the PrecisionAg Institute, an independent global forum dedicated to the sharing of precision agriculture practices, ideas, research, products, services and success stories. Read More
Algae Lake Erie
Service ProvidersAg Retailers Report Progress on Products and Services that Improve Water Quality
September 28, 2017
Ag retail-serviced acres of variable rate technology (VRT), cover crops, rotational soil testing, and other phosphorus-saving strategies continue to grow Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment for a More Sustainable Future
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
Diamondback moth
Tools & Smart EquipmentTechAccel Invests in Unique Sprayable RNAi Pesticide Technology
September 12, 2017
TechAccel, the Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, has announced it has awarded the first grant under its “Path Read More
Trending Articles
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imagery Deal
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsEFC Systems’ FieldAlytics Now Available in Canada
September 29, 2017
According to an AgPR news release, FieldAlytics is now available in Canada through FieldAlytics Solutions Canada, Inc. This new company Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSciFi in Ag: Chatbot with your Plants?
September 26, 2017
(Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversDeepfield Robotics to Showcase Precision Agriculture Technology at Agrilevante
September 22, 2017
Deepfield Robotics is preparing to showcase its robotics and automation technologies for the agriculture market at the Agrilevante event, in Read More
Farmer with iPad
Australia/New ZealandAgrian Expands into Australia
September 20, 2017
In line with a familiar growth trajectory, Agrian Inc. is moving into Australia with a physical support and sales presence Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment for a More Sustainable Future
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsFieldReveal Inks Agreement with Texas Agronomy Outfit
October 19, 2017
FieldReveal has entered into an agreement with Ag Producers Cooperative of Dalhart, TX, to offer the full FieldReveal precision ag Read More
corn weather
Data ManagementSeasonal Weather Outlooks: High Risk Worth the Reward?
October 18, 2017
Often, when discussing weather service needs with a potential client, I am asked about the possibility of providing long-range weather Read More
Industry NewsAgDNA Announces Dealership Expansion
October 18, 2017
This week AgDNA surpassed their growth projections, announcing partnerships with eight new multi-store dealerships across the mid-west, mid-south and east Read More
AsiaIndia Maps 185 Districts Through Remote Sensing for Hor…
October 17, 2017
India’s Union Ministry of Agriculture has mapped 185 districts under a project using remote sensing technology to identify areas best Read More
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient …
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Data ManagementUsing Vector Soil Data in a Raster World?
October 16, 2017
Why spend the time and resources to extract the NRCS ‘Soil SURvey GeOgraphic’ (SSURGO) soil polygons only to display the Read More
Precision Irrigation
Precision Irrigation4 Important Ways Precision Technology Is Impacting Irri…
October 12, 2017
Water management is becoming an increasing concern in agriculture, whether that’s dealing with too much or too little water. This Read More
DronesDroneLife: Global Ag Drone Industry Potentially Worth $…
October 12, 2017
Via DroneLife.com’s Jason Reagan: According to an August study by Esticast Research & Consulting Market Research, the global commercial drone Read More
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imag…
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Planet Labs satellite imagery
Industry NewsFarmers Edge, Planet Labs Announce Multi-Year Exclusive…
October 11, 2017
Farmers Edge announced today a strategic partnership to bring Planet’s best-in-class global monitoring platform to the Farmers Edge precision agriculture Read More
John Deere Combine Harvester at Hagen Farms
Decision Support SoftwareAg and Rail Equipment Uptime Critical for Good Harvest
October 9, 2017
Across the American Heartland, growers have started harvesting their crops for what the USDA predicts will be a good yield Read More
Ag Drone
Industry NewsBotlink, SST Announce Integration
October 6, 2017
Botlink has announced a seamless flow of actionable aerial data into the agX Platform. This integration makes it quick and Read More
corn field
Industry NewsEFC Purchases AgSolver Assets, Establishes New Sustaina…
October 6, 2017
EFC Systems announced it has purchased the assets of AgSolver Inc. The move establishes a new Agronomic Planning and Sustainabilty Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Australia/New ZealandNew Technologies vs. Agronomic Knowledge in Precision A…
October 4, 2017
As the days are getting longer and the temperature is starting to rise, Australian broadacre growers are gearing up for Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Industry NewsClimate, West Central Distribution Join Forces on Phosp…
October 3, 2017
To help farmers improve productivity and return on their investment, West Central Distribution and The Climate Corporation have teamed up Read More
DronesYuma Growers Embrace Precision Production
October 3, 2017
From the Rose Garden at the White House, to the laser-leveled fields of Yuma, AZ (home to 90% of this Read More
EuropeUK: Robotic Farm Completes First Fully Autonomous Harve…
October 3, 2017
It’s harvest season in many parts of the world, but on one farm in the United Kingdom, robots — not Read More
APSUL overview
AmericasFuture of Digital Agriculture Arrives at South American…
October 2, 2017
Last week I attended the fourth South American Congress of Precision Agriculture and Precision Machinery (IV APSUL America 2017). The Read More