One pass seeds cover crops, sidedresses the corn crop and sprays weeds, at least in State College, Pa. Penn State’s cover crop experimental interseeder potentially increases profits by $100/acre in corn yields, reduced N requirements and glyphosate applications costs.
“Now my neighbors will have to create a different excuse for not using cover crops,” says Scott Reinhart, Marienville, Pa., a farmer who’s testing an interseeder. “They say they don’t have time to seed a cover crop, but they have time to spray for weeds and/or sidedress their corn.” This interseeder combines all of those chores, when corn is at the 6-8-leaf stage that marks the end of corn’s critical weed-free period.
The interseeder was Extension Specialist Greg Roth’s answer to starting cover crops earlier. “This concept has been used overseas to intensify crop rotation,” he says. “With this approach, if the cover crop fails, at least you have sprayed and fertilized the field.”
By harvest, the cover crops are often well established and can handle combine traffic.
The following spring, the grain crop is seeded directly into the killed cover crop. Corn yields in one continuous corn trial so far have picked up an extra 7-10 bu./acre, , and soybean yields were 70 bu./acre.
Reinhart seeded four variations of cover crop mixes into standing soybeans the second week of July. “Next year I hope to seed even earlier, for that much more of an advantage,” he says.
The early-seeded cover crop presented no harvest problems, and no green matter mixing with the beans in the bin, Reinhart reports.
Erie, Pa., dairyman Bob Buhl found “no drawbacks at all” in four cover-crop mix replications using the Penn State interseeder on his corn silage. He seeded the cover crops when the corn was about 1 ft. tall. His silage yields averaged 16 tons/acre, above average for Erie County in the drought year.
Roth hopes to have the interseeder commercially available by the winter of 2014.
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