Cover crop seeding season is upon us and the decision of how to seed them is an important one to consider.
This post is part two of our series on cover crop seeding techniques. In Part One: Overseeding, Ann discussed the importance of getting the cover crops seeded into standing corn and soybeans due to the short growing season if planted after harvest. Broadcast seeding is another way to get the cover crop seeds in the field earlier to extend the growing season in the fall.
Between August 25 and September 4, the Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa traveled the state to hand broadcast seed cover crops and collect water samples. This is the third seeding season for these plots at six ISU Farmer Association Research Farms. The plots are part of a National Conservation Innovation Grant project comparing cover crop mixtures and single species vs. no cover crop check strips and the impact the treatments may have on soil and water quality as well as crop yields.
Before we headed to the field, a seed packet for each row was weighed out and labeled. The goal is to seed one million seeds per acre, so the seed packet weight is calculated based on the plot size and the cover crop species (or mixture) being used. Each plot is 50 feet in length. The sites vary in plot width – 6 rows, 8 rows or 12 rows. The packets are bundled together for each plot for easy access in the field. They are then placed in a backpack destined for the field.
Once we reach the plot and double-check the map, we prepare to seed. The packet bundle is loaded into a tool pouch and the seeder takes the end of the tape measure. Ripping off one corner of the packet, the seeder begins to walk backwards down the row, sprinkling out seeds as he/she goes. At the end of the 50ft, the seeder switches out for a new packet and returns down the next row, as shown in the photos below.
Seeding cover crops into standing soybeans at the Northeast Research Farm near Nashua on September 4, 2015.
The process is repeated in the corn plots until all the seed packets have been dispensed. Below is a video of seeding in the corn plots at the Southeast Research Farm near Crawfordsville on September 3, 2015.
If you are interested in establishing a small test plot, we have a Test Strip Calculator Tool available to help. The cover crop test strip seeding rate calculator allows the user to input the dimensions of the plot, select the seeding method, and choose from 14 cover crop options. The tool automatically calculates the amount of total seed needed based on the plot size and reports the seeding rate per row for easy measurements. The calculations are based on recommended seeding rates from the Midwest Cover Crops Council Cover Crop Decision Tool.
For more information about this cover crop mixtures project check out our previous posts about the project: