Grow Your Next Crop and Your Bottom Line
Your guide to using a drill for planting cover crops.
A versatile, heavy-duty drill equipped with multiple seed boxes can not only be used to plant your traditional crops, but it can also help you seed challenging cover crop mixes successfully. Using a drill to plant your cover crops will increase the value of your drill investment and maximize its utility across more acres.
When choosing a drill for your cover crops, there are several important factors to think about. To help you pinpoint the right drill for your conditions, we’ve compiled a list of six ways the Great Plains Drill line stands ready to help you grow your next crop—and your bottom line, as well.
1. Accurately meter the most challenging cover crop mix with the versatile fluted feed meter.
There’s more to it than seeding rate.
Accurate seed metering involves more than simply achieving the correct seeding rate. The different sizes of seed included in the mix must be evenly metered, as well. This can be challenging, because many mixes contain seed as small as canola and some as large as Jerry oats. Depending on the meter’s properties, many metering systems will favor larger or smaller seeds first, leaving a single seed size in the drill until last and defeats the whole purpose of planting a cover crop mix.
The versatile Great Plains fluted feed meter has proven itself effective in handling these variations in seed size. It is designed to keep seed flowing with a positive action that meters without “singling out” a particular seed size to meter first.
Calibration is key.
Because cover crop mixes are generally planted at lower rates and can be expensive, it is important to calibrate your drill for the cover crop mix before you plant. Many seeds used in cover crop mixes vary in test weight from one seed lot to the next. Seed size and shape affect flowability of the seed, and changes in humidity and temperature can amplify these variations.
Fortunately, calibrating Great Plains fluted feed meters is simple. A calibration guide can be found in each drill’s manual. A seed cup calibration tool (part number 817-459C) can also be ordered from your Great Plains dealer to ensure the accuracy of your drill. Click here to see how the calibration tool works.
2. Handle the smallest of seeds with the optional small seeds box.
Why use a small seeds box?
Although the main seed box’s fluted feed meter will accurately meter almost any seed size imaginable, it can only meter the seed it’s given. Some external factors can impact how seed is mixed in the main seed box. First, just driving through the field with a seed blend in the main box can cause the smaller seeds to sift to the bottom of the box and affect the population mix. This video demonstrates what could happen in the seed box:
The second factor is the seed company. A 50-pound bag of pre-blended cover crop seed indicates how much of each seed is in the bag, but there is no guarantee that each type of seed is evenly distributed throughout each pound of seed in the bag.
These inconsistencies can make the seeding process costly and ineffective. For example, let’s consider a cover crop planted with the goal of removing compaction layers to increase the soil’s water storage capacity:
- If the cover crop is planted too thick, the cost of application will increase and overcrowding could keep the plants from reaching their full potential.
- On the other hand, if the cover crop is planted too thin, compaction layers will not be fully eliminated, preventing the soil’s ability to store more water, which was the original goal of the cover crop.
- If these “compaction-eliminating” cover crop seeds are part of a mix and sift to the bottom of the seed box, part of the field could get the majority of the seed and other areas none.
To prevent issues like these, it is best to separate cover crop mixes based on seed size by adding a small seeds box.
Benefit from adding a small seeds box.
Adding the optional small seeds box will benefit overall cover crop success. Designed with a focus on smaller seeds and their traditional seeding rates, the Great Plains small seeds box increases accuracy by separating smaller seeds from larger ones with a smaller version of the Great Plains fluted feed meter. It also allows these smaller seeds to be planted at a shallower, more appropriate depth. (This is further discussed below.) The bottom line is: using a small seed attachment is very beneficial. The applied rate is more accurate when seeds are grouped together based on seed size.
3. Fertilize with the dry fertilizer box.
There are unforeseen advantages!
Fertility is not generally the number one concern when planting cover crops, but the application of starter fertilizer can boost the cover crop’s root development and growth. If fertilizer is used, consider applying starter fertilizer in anticipation of the next cash crop. This practice will have an unforeseen advantage: time savings. By placing starter fertilizer during the less-hectic cover crop planting season, you can reduce your workload during the cash crop planting season.
4. Accurately place all seed types and sizes at any depth with the rugged 00HD opener.
Why it works:
The beauty of the 00HD Opener system is its rugged dependability, accuracy, and ability to accept many press wheel options. Dependability starts with the composite T-handle depth control assembly. Wear is virtually eliminated because the press wheel arm pushes up against the T-handle assembly. It eliminates all linkage and prevents steel-on-steel contact in the depth control process. A combination of positive depth control and robot-welded openers ensures consistent depth across the entire drill.
Many competitive drills utilize a combination of linkage and steel-on-steel contact that leads to inconsistent seeding depth and poor stands. Depth issues on competitive drills only compound themselves with time and wear.
Plant small seeds at the right depth.
If a small seeds attachment is used, placing cover crops at the proper depth is even easier due to the reversible small seeds tube and side mount small seeds tube (used with a fertilizer box). Small seed, such as clover, can be planted near the soil surface through the small seed tube, while seed like triticale can be planted at its normal depth through the main seed tube. This maximizes emergence of the entire cover crop mix.
Great Plains press wheel options can be tailored to maximize success in specific field conditions (pictured below):
- Most min-till situations: The 3" x 13" Center Rib (B) is the best choice for min-till conditions. Its combination of flotation and flexible rubber provides excellent depth control and ability to shed moist soil from the tires.
- High percentage of wheat in rotation: The 2" x 13" Single Press Wheel (A) provides a firmer press over the seed and a higher soil ridge between the rows.
- Continuous wheat operations with sandy soil: The 3" x 14" Peaked Wheel (E) is a specialty wheel used to increase pressure on the seed and to maximize the soil ridge between the rows.
- High percentage of soybeans in rotation: The 1" x 12" Double-V Press Wheels (C) are used when maximum closing action is needed and less pressure directly over the seed is desired.
- High percentage of soybeans in rotation: Like the double 1" x 12" Double-V Press Wheels, Double Wedge Wheels (D) are used when maximum closing action is needed and less pressure directly over the seed is desired, but this system is more aggressive.
5. Stay in the field longer with the 3.2 bushel per foot main seed box.
Great Plains Drills can help you stay in the field and reduce fill times with large seed boxes, well-thought-out fold systems, and fully boxed opener frames to place seed in toughest situations.
6. Face challenging field conditions with the right drill for your operation.
Whether seeding a few acres or several thousand, it’s important to choose a drill size and model to fit your cover crop goals and field conditions. The explanations below provide more guidance to help you make the right decision.
- These drills are well-suited to plant cover crops into a wide variety of conditions, from conventional to light no-till.
- All folding min-till drills feature the contour-hugging Great Plains hydraulic down pressure system, which pivots around the gauge wheel tires and offers over 30" of travel at the press wheels. To maximize flexibility, simply dial in the desired pressure to meet your penetration needs.
- Plant two cover crop mixes at different rates and depths at the same time, using the regular and small seeds boxes.
- Min-till series drills are equipped with a 3.2 bu./ft. seed box.
- Even if the drill is equipped with a dry fertilizer system, it only takes a few minutes to convert the fertilizer/seed box combo into a 3.2 bu. all-seed box. Plus, no tools are required.
- Cover crops requiring shallower planting depths can be placed over most terraces without the need for double-seeding terrace tops, saving both time and valuable cover crop seed.
- If you need a higher capacity, a min-till implement/cart combination is the best choice.
- Featuring the 00HD opener and two independently metered seed boxes, these are the highest-capacity drills offered by Great Plains—and are very flexible.
- They feature the same hydraulic down pressure system offered on the min-till series dill, but with the added feature of a horizontal pivot behind the air cart. This adds even more contour-following capabilities to the industry-leading, hydraulic down pressure drill line from Great Plains.
- Offered in 40' and 45' implements and 220 bu. and 350 bu. carts.
- Great Plains Compact Drills feature no-till capabilities. With a leading coulter and double disc opener system, the design allows for planting in conventional tillage to no-till conditions.
- The compact series drill will also plant a combination of three different seeds, at three different rates, in three boxes.
- Tailor the drill to your cover crop needs with various options. All compact drills start with a main seed box. Either a second main seed box, native grass box, or fertilizer box can be added. A small seeds box can also be added to best handle small seeds.
- These versatile drills are offered in 5' to 12' widths.
- If you need a medium-sized no-till drill to plant cover crops, consider the combination of a 1500 Drill or 2000 Drill with a Center Pivot Hitch or Precision Fertilizer Hitch.
- They offer a standard 2.4 bu. main seed box, dry or liquid fertilizer, and a small seeds attachment.
- Choose from 00 Series Openers or 10 Series Parallel Linkage Openers.
- Offered in 15' and 20' models.
- For larger operations, the 2N-2410 Drill or 2N-3010 Drill are great choices for planting cover crops.
- They feature 10 Series Parallel Linkage Openers as standard equipment.
- A 2.4 bu. main seed box and optional small seeds box can place two types of seed at two different rates and depths in the same pass.
- Offered in 24' and 30' models.
- With a width of 40', the 3S-4010HD is the largest Great Plains box drill, featuring the 10HD Series Openers, 15" disc blades, a 2.4 bu. seed box, and an optional small seeds box.
- If more capacity is needed in no-till conditions, then these no-till air drill implements are your best choice.
- Two independently metered seed boxes and the fluff-and-plant no-till system with 10 Series Parallel Linkage Openers deliver cover crops at the right rate and depth.
- Implements are offered in 30' and 35' widths, with 220 bu. and 350 bu. carts.
- Two-bin versatility offers the ability to seed two different seeds at two different rates at the same time.
If you have any questions about drills and cover crops, we'd love to hear from you. Simply fill out the "request information" form on the right side of this page (or below, if you're on a mobile device) and one of our representatives will contact you. Your local Great Plains dealer is also a great resource! Click here to locate the dealer nearest you.