Cover Crop Inter-seeder and Nitrogen Side-dresser

Paul Hamann

We operate a row crop and beef farm in Southeast Minnesota. A corn on bean and corn on corn rotation is common practice in the area. We also have a large livestock industry. On our farm we utilize conservation tillage in the form of strip-till. We use a strip-till unit that we manufactured ourselves and we have been featured in the No-Till Farmer and Successful Farming with our strip-till unit. We find that conservation tillage is very beneficial in our geography due to the highly erodible soils, high number of streams and rivers, and the karst topography (limestone bedrock which causes caves, natural springs, and sink holes) in the area.

Our goal is to develop a system that allows farmers to side-dress nitrogen in-season while inter-seeding cover crops in one application. This would allow us to split and reduce our nitrogen applications, increase bio-diversity in the field, reduce erosion through increased soil structure, and increase water infiltration. Inter-seeded cover crops would also be beneficial for cattle grazing in the fall and winter months. We would like to create a multi-year demonstration that shows the benefits of utilizing cover crops, using reduced tillage, and splitting nitrogen applications. If we can prove that this can be done, while increasing the productivity and workability of our crop land, we can encourage other growers to adapt these practices.

Our objective is to create an implement that allows tanners to inter-seed cover crops and side-dress nitrogen in an easy one pass system. We plan to use a 12-row side-dress unit as the base of our project. Next, we will remove the side-dress row units and replace them with a modified row unit based off of a Yetter strip freshener unit. A Gandy Orbit Air cover crop seed box with a half-ton capacity will be mounted on to the side-dress unit. Each row unit will be plumbed to dispense cover crop seed and nitrogen. We plan to utilize this system on 120 acres of com. We expect to have 10 or more checks across those acres. Our goal is to record and analyze the data using Climate FieldView and Agrian. Upon completion, our goal is to deliver an implement and system capable of inter-seeding a cover crop mix and side-dressing nitrogen into standing com. This will allow farmers and applicators to reduce overall nitrogen use and optimize the availability for when the plant needs it most, while increasing soil health, structure, and bio-diversity with the cover crops. We will show that there are tangible benefits to splitting N applications and the use of cover crops