Investigating Aerial Seeding Cover Crops into Soybeans

Dan Coffman

For this proposal, I’d like to demonstrate/investigate and possibly develop ideas regarding the seeding of cover crops into soybeans just before harvest. I will be looking at seeding systems (airplane & high clearance sprayer), two different cover crop blends, changes in soil health and soil erosion, and lastly, changes in management practices as well as the challenges that might be associated with that. The field selected is the same as last year. The east 30 acres will be split into 15 acre sections to investigate the different seeding systems, and furthermore, those 15 acre sections will be split into 7.5 ac sections to demonstrate the different blends of cover crops selected. The west 30 acres will have no cover crops seeded. Soybean variety, herbicide timing and application and fertilizer practices will be the same on all 60 acres.

Specific objectives that I will demonstrate/investigate/accomplish during this project include:
First, determine which seeding system is the best for seeding cover crop into standing soybeans. I have selected an airplane for aerial seeding and will be renting a custom built high clearance sprayer with a Gandy air seeder for the second option.

Second, I’d like to investigate two different seeding mixes and their effects on the following year’s corn crop. The first mix will be a standard aerial mix typically recommended by the NRCS for aerial seeding. The second mix will contain more biennial/perennial legumes to hopefully benefit the following year’s corn crop and potentially reduce nitrogen applications. I will consult with my collaborators and the seed company on a proper mix to accomplish this objective.

Third, I will observe changes in soil health and soil erosion using tissue tests, soil health tests and visual observations. My crop consultant frequently takes tissue samples and has started to take soil health samples. The tissue tests will be taken twice in season, once at an early growth stage and once during a reproductive stage.