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Rigging Up A Late-Season Cover Crop, Fertilizer Solution

With help from a fabricator, New York strip-tiller Donn Branton converted a RoGator into a dual-purpose machine that seeds covers and dry fertilizer into standing corn and soybeans.

Seeding cover crops into standing corn and soybeans in a colder climate can be a daunting challenge, so Donn Branton came up with a solution on his farm that actually solves two problems in one pass.

The Le Roy, N.Y., strip-tiller bought a used RoGator 1274C fertilizer applicator and converted it into a highboy seeder that applies cover crops and dry fertilizer into standing crops.

“If we’re done with corn harvest by Thanksgiving we’re early, and by then it’s too late to get something good down for a cover crop,” Branton says. “We’ve used some cereal rye, but the problem is that it can get away from you really quickly in spring.”

More ‘N’ Needed

With very wet weather seen in recent years, Branton and his son, Chad, have been working with Cornell University on nitrogen-management issues on his farm.

Even though Donn felt there was adequate nitrogen in his fields due to reduced tillage, the university said there was a significant deficit — as much as 100 to 120 pounds in some fields.

To test that conclusion, the Brantons applied 60 pounds of additional nitrogen on cornfields last year and saw a 40-bushel yield increase compared to check strips, “so maybe there is something to late-season nitrogen,” Donn says. “I felt extra nitrogen and cover crops could go hand in hand.”

After talking with no-tillers David Brandt and Jamie Scott at a conference last year, the Brantons came up with a plan to apply dry urea and cover-crop seed…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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