Cover crops can be broadcast onto a field, followed by a light tillage pass to incorporate, or seeds can be spread and incorporated with a seeder mounted directly on the vertical tillage implement. No matter the method, shallow incorporation after broadcast seeding helps improve cover crop stands.
Broadcasting cover crops with vertical tillage incorporation offers a one-pass operation that is often faster than other methods, as many shallow vertical tillage implements are designed to operate at high speeds. It provides adequate seed-to-soil contact and fits well into vertical tillage operations. Vertical tillage tools aid in the establishment of cover crops by cutting and fluffing residue to increase seed-to-soil contact. Studies have shown that broadcasting wheat and rye covers with vertical tillage incorporation produced establishment rates similar to those that were drilled.
Incorporation of cover crops with vertical tillage increases germination and leads to higher establishment rates than broadcast methods alone. Incorporating the seed also reduces the impact of weather conditions.
Tips for Broadcasting & Incorporating Cover Crops
- Broadcast seeding generally requires 10-20% higher seeding rates than drilled rates.
- Following seeding, rainfall is helpful but not crucial for broadcasting with incorporation. Adequate soil moisture is necessary for success with this method.
- Broadcasting larger seeds and mixes may present more challenges, as seed-to-soil contact is more important for establishment. Varying seed sizes and densities could result in uneven stands, so when broadcasting mixtures, it is important to monitor for even distribution and spreading.
- Ensure seed is not buried too deep.
- Run straight coulters on the vertical tillage implement. Avoid cupped or concave blades, as these invert the soil and bury the cover crop too deep.