If you’re considering cover crops, it is important to decide how to plant them. There are various techniques for seeding cover crops, including no-till drilling, precision planting, and broadcasting seed with incorporation. Each method has its own set of advantages and limitations, but the key is to find a method best-suited for your operation’s cover crop goals.
What cover crops do you intend to plant?
Generally, grasses and large-seeded legumes should be planted 1" to 1.5" deep. Smaller seed should be planted 0.25" to 0.5" deep. Drills and planters will achieve more precise placement in the soil, while broadcast methods are more successful with seeds requiring less soil cover.
Read about specific types of cover crops for more information about planting depth and seeding rates.
What is your planting window?
It is important to know how much time you have to seed cover crops for timely establishment. As a general rule of thumb, some experts suggest cover crops should grow at least four to six weeks to justify the time and expense, although late planting may still offer protection against erosion.
Always have a back-up plan! Alternate planting techniques should be considered if harvest is delayed due to weather or other issues.
What equipment do you already own?
Get more acreage out of your drill, precision planter, or vertical tillage equipment by planting cover crops. With only a few minor adjustments, your precision planter or no-till drill will be ready to accurately seed cover crops for a successful stand. You could also consider broadcasting and incorporating cover crop seed as part of your vertical tillage system to save time and reduce field traffic.
If you’re just starting out, try using more than one method to spread out your risk and find out what works on your farm. Whichever seeding method you choose, adding cover crops to your rotation can make your drill, planter, or vertical tillage implement even more valuable to your operation.