No-till drilling is a widely-accepted method for seeding cover crops. In many cases, it is the preferred method due to the numerous benefits it provides. Cover crops are typically drilled immediately after the cash crop is harvested. No-till drills, often used in conservation tillage systems, are designed to plant directly into heavy crop residue.
Drilling is considered one of the best and most accurate ways to successfully seed cover crops. Studies show cover crops planted with a no-till drill often result in a better stand, which maximizes cover crop benefits. With accurate metering, distribution, depth, spacing, and placement of seed, no-till drills offer uniform seed placement and excellent seed-to-soil contact, which leads to a high cover crop establishment rate. Good seed-to-soil contact is also important for fast, consistent emergence. Drilled cover crops can produce denser stands more quickly than other methods, which helps with weed suppression. Drilling also generally uses less seed than other cover crop seeding methods.
Tips for Drilling Cover Crops
- Drilling cover crops is an effective method for most cover crop varieties, including small-seeded species.
- Depth control should be properly set! Set the depth control for the optimum depth of the seed, but monitor closely to ensure the maximum depth isn’t exceeded. When drilling cover crop mixes, consider goals for the cover crops, and set the depth to the species that will best address those needs.
- It is very important to calibrate the drill, as well. Refer to the owner’s manual or consult a local equipment dealer for proper seeding rates.
- Cover crops must be drilled after harvest is complete. Due to a smaller planting window, consider planting earlier-maturing cash crop hybrids to allow more time for planting and establishment.
- Avoid drilling cover crops in wet soil.