Penn State's Cover Crop Interseeder Earns An A+

Check out the Penn State cover crop interseeder if you're looking for a highly successful way to establish cover crops.

Published on: Nov 8, 2013

A cover crop interseeder designed and built at Penn State University's agronomy research farm at Rock Springs has put on a lot of road miles since summer. And it's still scheduled for demonstrations next week at Rock Springs and Big Flats, N.Y.

When something's successful, you like to spread the word. And that's what's going on – funded by the USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program in conjunction with Cornell University and the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Md.

That's also why you'll want to watch for your December issue of American Agriculturist magazine. Corey Dillon, who built and modified the interseeder will be featured on the cover. And in an inside article, how and why the machine was designed.

CORN ROW STRADDLER: Corey Dillon, fabricator of the interseeder, also plumbed the machine to sidedress the corn with nitrogen and apply a postemergence herbicide.
CORN ROW STRADDLER: Corey Dillon, fabricator of the interseeder, also plumbed the machine to sidedress the corn with nitrogen and apply a postemergence herbicide.

Multi-year on-farm test sites are going on across Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, evaluating cover crop species and mixtures using the interseeder, reports Greg Roth one of the project leaders. "At many sites, cover crops tolerated corn's shade well and produced nice stands at corn harvest." 

Impressive performance

Cover crop establishment was exceptional at the Rock Springs farm, according to Roth, due to the new interseeder design and good growing conditions in June. Establishment at all New York locations also went well.

"We gained more experience this year applying postemergent corn herbicides with the interseeder," adds Bill Curran, Penn State Extension weed specialist. "We're developing some recommendations for achieving early-season weed control with minimal impact on the cover crops."

The goal of this project is to consistently establish cover crops, while potentially spraying and sidedressing fields, using modest seeding rates of species that'll supply N, improve soil quality or provide late-season grazing for crop producers, adds Roth. 

Encountered issues

  • Drilling seeds that need to be shallow-placed hurts establishment.
  • Seeding in soils that are too wet also can impact establishment.
  • At Maryland locations, shading from tall, dense corn was too severe for cover crop seedlings to survive.
  • At one Lancaster County location, night crawlers and slugs devoured well-established cover crops by early August.

To learn more about the interseeder, catch one of two field days coming up next week. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, you can attend a tour at the Rock Springs research farm site. On Thursday, Nov. 14, the USDA-NRCS Center at Big Flats, N.Y., will conduct a cover crop field day covering many topics. The interseeder will be demonstrated there.

On Thursday, Dec. 5, Franklin County Extension will have a field day near Chambersburg, Pa., featuring one of the on-farm trials.