The Dahmer family has been planting cover crops on their southern Illinois farm since the late 1990s.
Last year, father Terry and sons Adam and John planted cover crops on 75% of their farm, which is near Marion. This year, they implemented a new planting system, which they used to seed the entire 1,300-acre farm.
Earlier in the year, Terry purchased a Miller Nitro 5240 high-clearance sprayer. He sprayed with it this spring, then promptly removed the liquid tank.
In its place, the Dahmers installed a 65-bushel Gandy box. Terry spent much of the summer designing, building and testing an air-delivery system for cover crop seed.
This September, he finally saw the project come to fruition as he seeded cereal rye and hairy vetch in standing corn.
Cover crop benefits
Last year, a lot of farmers were able to drill cover crops since harvest was so early. Terry says this is quite atypical for most.
Rather than rely on aerial seeding, which can be tough to schedule in southern Illinois due to availability, the Dahmers wanted more control over timing, rate and placement.
Thus far, Adam notes they've seen a serious boost in organic matter. As a result, soil quality has been improved.
He's also impressed with how well cover crop residue suppresses weeds in early soybean fields. Here are a few more benefits the Dahmers have seen on their farm.
•Soil temperatures stay down
•Earthworm activity increases
•Compaction is reduced; weeds are suppressed
•Microorganisms work year round now
•Soil water-holding capacity & infiltration increase
Still, he notes farmers must stick to cover crops for several years to reap rewards.
"This is not something you can just drive by and toss seed out the window and see phenomenal yield results," Adam adds.
Check out the video to see the Miller Nitro seeding cover crops. Terry's custom-designed system worked without a hitch.
The PVC-tube seeders had plenty of give and flex. The corn plants were pushed maybe a few feet one way before bouncing back and remaining completely vertical.
This winter, Prairie Farmer
will follow-up with the Dahmer family for their insight on how the system worked.