An obstacle no-tillers often cite for not using cover crops in their rotation is getting them established in a timely manner after corn and soybean harvest so they get optimum growth and benefit. This is especially true in colder northern climates, where the growing season is shorter.
To meet this challenge, no-tillers, universities and other stakeholders have headed to their shops to build highboy seeders, interseeders and other equipment to solve these timing issues — and they’ve been pretty successful. We’ve brought many of these innovations to you in the pages of No-Till Farmer over the years.
Apparently, farm-equipment manufacturers have been taking notice. While I was attending Cover Crop Solutions’ 19th annual field day last week in Pennsylvania, several new innovations were on display that could help farmers seed covers into standing crops or during harvest.
Some solutions are even incorporating fertilizer application and herbicide treatments at the same time as the seeding pass, which could reduce trips across no-tilled fields.
Perhaps the most intriguing was the prototype “RowBot” seeder developed by a company in Minneapolis that uses GPS guidance to seed covers — and even sidedress UAN — into standing corn.
“Close your eyes and imagine five of these on a 160-acre field running 24/7, returning to a docking station and filling themselves up,” says Kent Cavender-Bares, CEO of RowBot Systems, which hopes to have 10 of the machines out next summer covering about 5,000 acres in the Corn Belt.
Gandy, Valmar, Dawn Equipment, Salford and a new company, Interseeder Technologies, are all commercializing ideas that farmers and university researchers helped develop.
For a substantial number of no-tillers, the question of “How will I do this?” is most central to cover-crop adoption. Some 46% of more than 700 farmers responding to a national survey last year said establishment was their biggest challenge, a higher percentage than those citing high labor and fuel costs, seed availability or management.
You can see a sampling of what No-Till Farmer editors saw at the field day by clicking here, and we’re planning more in-depth coverage in the upcoming Winter edition of Conservation Tillage Guide.
I think it’s exciting that manufacturers will now be competing to offer you solutions to getting covers in the ground earlier. It seems like obstacles are gradually fading away and being replaced with solutions, which is what farmers really want.