Fine-Tune No-Till Drills For Better Cover Crop Seeding

Whether it’s getting cover-crop mixes seeded properly, or determining the right planting depth, equipment experts and no-tillers themselves offer tips on improving cover-crop seeding with no-till drills.

From airplanes and helicopters to highboy seeders, spreaders and planters, there are plenty of options for seeding cover crops. But many no-tillers prefer to use the tried-and-true no-till drills to seed covers.

No two no-till systems are exactly alike, especially when it comes to seeding cover crops with drills. Crop rotation, cover crop species, geographic location, soil type and the drill itself all factor into how cover crops can be effectively seeded.

But there are a few common challenges each no-tiller may face, and different solutions they can try on their own farms.

Drill Improvements


No-tillers should treat cover crops like cash crops, which means maintaining the drills in top-notch condition, rather than putting maintenance issues off until later, says Ron Hoover, a coordinator of onfarm research at Penn State University.

Among the priorities should be replacing worn parts, especially coulters, discs and opener-unit pivot bushings that ensure drill openers are tracking correctly.

“If the cover crop is as important as we think it is, then let’s treat it as an important crop,” he says.

No-tiller H. Grant Troop of Perryville, Md., says proper drill maintenance is key to achieving better seed placement. Troop replaces his disc-opener blades when the diameters are worn down to ½ inch. He follows a regular lubrication schedule for bearings, drive chains and other moving points requiring treatment.

He’s seen seed get wet in the delivery system during rain and begin to grow in the seed tubes, so he checks the tubes regularly during the…

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Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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