Farmers invest in cover crop seeding rig

You don’t read often about a tool that has never been tried. But Mike Shuter and sons Patrick and Brian, Frankton, have a good record at developing innovative equipment. At press time, their latest tool was ready to rock ‘n’ roll but hadn’t officially been in the field yet.

The Shuters, once no-tillers and now strip tillers, want to incorporate cover crops into their farming operation. They will pick up soil protection during winter. But the real reason for trying them is to tie up nitrogen during the winter for use the following summer, plus loosen soils.

“We need to be more concerned about the biology of the soil,” Mike says. “For us it’s the next logical step.”

Key Points

Strip-till farmers will sow cover crops for the first time.

High-clearance sprayer is rigged to apply cover crops in standing corn.

The cover crop mix will depend on what they’re growing next year.


Big machine

The Shuters already owned a Miller sprayer with enough clearance to go over standing corn. One obstacle for those who want to incorporate cover crops into a row-crop system is getting them seeded on time. They figured that if they could convert the sprayer to seed cover crops, they could plant them before crops were harvested.

So the Shuters removed the sprayer tank and installed a Gandy 36-0utlet airbox. Then they installed drop tubes to carry the seed to the ground.

“The single-hopper box is hydraulically driven,” Mike notes. “It was fairly simple to switch out the tank for the box.”

Their goal is to seed cover crops into corn when about half the leaves have fallen. “We’re hoping that will form an ideal seedbed, and when the rest of the leaves fall, it will hold moisture and help germination,” Mike adds.

Crop mix

This isn’t something the Shuters just decided to do a few weeks ago. “We’ve been studying this for three to four years and decided it was time to do it,” Mike explains. They even know what type of cover crops they want to try where.

“If we’re going to plant soybeans into the field next year, we’ll go with cereal rye,” he observes. “But if the field is going back to corn or if it’s soybeans going to corn, we intend to seed a mix of annual ryegrass, crimson clover and forage radishes.”

They’re hoping to catch nitrogen and tie it up in fields going to corn. In theory, once the cover crops are knocked down next spring, the N should eventually be returned for the corn to use, hopefully by its peak growth stage.

Mike is convinced cover crops will work well in their strip-till system. Only a minimal amount of soil is disturbed to form the strip. “We will have plenty of cover left,” he believes. “Plus, where we use radishes, it will be a plus. We won’t have radishes where seed will go.”

Look for a follow-up next spring.

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Ready: This sprayer rigged to seed cover crops was sitting in the Shuters’ barnlot, waiting for its first run, a few weeks ago.

This article published in the October, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.