Modern Planters Will Plant Through Standing Cover Crops

You can burn down the cover crop first, or wait until after planting.

Published on: May 31, 2013

Those who are trying cover crops for the first time may not want to try planting into standing cover crops, but there are some advantages.

If it's a grass-type cover crop, an advantage for letting the cover crop grow longer is that it sends roots deeper. If it's a legume, it will likely produce more nitrogen. It also doesn't leave a mat of dying material to keep the soil wet if you burn the cover crop down and then it rains before you get a chance to plant it.

However, one issue with planting into standing cover crops is problems with planting equipment. If you're using row cleaners to clear a path for the seed openers, can they operate without wrapping up cover crop plant material into the spokes or around the residue wheel hub? The same is true of closing wheels. Can they operate without plugging or serving as rakes to gather up material that then interferes with proper planting?

Plant through it: Larry Huffmeyer planted through this crimson clover cover crop before the clover was sprayed. He didnt encounter difficulties with plant material interfering with the planter.
Plant through it: Larry Huffmeyer planted through this crimson clover cover crop before the clover was sprayed. He didn't encounter difficulties with plant material interfering with the planter.

Larry Huffmeyer, a Syngenta rep and farmer near Napoleon, planted into crimson clover that had not been sprayed. He planted in early May, and the clover was about 18 inches to two feet tall. He was pleasantly surprised that he didn't encounter problems with wrapping around planter parts, at least not to any significant degree.

Instead, the living cover crop did not prove to be a problem for the planting process, he concludes.

For more, download our free report, Cover Crops: Best Management Practices.