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Your Cover Crop is a cash crop and should be treated as such.

Every pass you make through the field is important and seeding cover crops should be treated with care. Whether it’s a small grain or a 12-way mix, getting good emergence of every seed should be the goal.

Winter wheat, “the original” cover crop, has greatly benefited from more accuracy in seeding method. The same 4 Exapta principles of seeding apply when seeding cover crops. To realize all the benefits from having a green crop growing year around, it’s just as important to get the best stand possible. Evaluate your goals for planting a cover crop. Cover crops do an excellent job with weed control and every year it’s where the cover crop is thin and didn’t emerge well that weed control is compromised. You want a strong, vigorous crop that will over-winter and it starts at seeding time.

There are different designs of openers used for seeding. Double-disc drills are very popular but if you look closer at what they offer, each one has a key piece missing that is not ideal. Look for red flags like a no-till coulter, lack of gauge wheel or sliding scraper to prevent soil blowout, lack of firming device, or a closing wheel that doubles as the depth wheel. Planters and single disc drills are still the most accurate tools for seeding cash crops and the same goes for cover crops. If you only have a planter, don’t hesitate to use it. Planters will do an excellent job seeding cover crops and wider row spacing allows room to seed the next crop between the rows.

Aerial seeding and broadcasting covers on the surface, while quick and low cost, do not have nearly as consistent success with germination as good seed-to soil-contact. In corn, a move to inter-seeding covers at around V4 stage, to get them established earlier before the corn gets too tall, allows the use of drill or planter units to improve emergence. As you get north of I-80, it gets harder to get much growth from covers after harvest, which makes inter-seeding essential to get cover crops to work. The future points towards more improvements in relay cropping and moving away from growing one crop each year.

While making that pass across the field, don’t hesitate to include some fertility. Correcting deficiencies improves the cover crop and its ability to reach the goals with which you are seeding the crop in the first place. Accelerate your soil health by creating super-healthy plants. Go further than micronutrients as well. Instead of trying to balance your fertilizer, use nature. The object of soil health improvement is to let growing plants (year-round) bring nutrients that move down through the soil back toward the surface where the biology is, to make them available for plant uptake. Let the microbes and plants communicate and balance the plants needs.

There have been quite a few farms trying organic production because of the nice premium for the grain. When you eliminate the tools or “cides” available to rescue crops and keep them healthy, cover crops become a necessity and have just as much value as a cash crop. A failed cover crop means failed weed control, nitrogen fixation, and starving biology. Until we get more cash crops to grow, especially winter versions, cover crops and their value should not just be some seed that is considered a halfway crop.

Chris Horton

Chris Horton brings 25 years of management with him. He grew up on his grandparents farm in Reno County Kansas where they mainly grew wheat and cattle feed. He worked on feed lots as a pen rider and cow-calf operations before moving to Southern California where Chris started a new career in the transportation and transport logistics, eventually managing the western region for a large commercial vehicle leasing company. Chris moved home to Kansas, to manage a local Farmers Coop and then eventually the service dept for a tractor dealership. The opportunity to join the Exapta team came up, and he knew he wanted to be a part of this team.

Bob Pagel

Sales & Service Representative

Prior to joining Exapta, Bob Pagel was an Agricultural Territory Sales Manager for Ritchie Brothers, serving parts of MN, WI and IA. He continues to support his family farm in SE Minnesota.

Jon Zeller

Current Product Engineer

Jonathan Zeller joined Exapta excited to return to working with no-till planting equipment. He supported research of no-till planting and other ag related projects for 7 years with Kansas State University’s Agricultural Engineering Department after getting his engineering degree. He later worked 3 years for Landoll Company, LLC. where he gained experience in a design engineering role. Jonathan grew up on a small family farm in NE Kansas working with row crops, hay and cattle. Jonathan enjoys solving engineering problems and improving or creating products to be robust and easy to install and service.