Aerial application: The next generation of cover crop seeding

Aerial application of cover crops may be the best option for Michigan farmers.

Cover crops are fast becoming a common practice for many farms. According to a survey that the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) sent to subscribers of Corn and Soybean Digest, 63.7 percent of those who replied said that not enough time to get cover crop established with harvest challenges when asked the question “Why are cover crops not in your crop rotation?” A solution to this dilemma is to apply cover crops before the cash crop is harvested. One of the ways to do this is aerial seeding.

Aerial application is an economical way that farmers can apply cover crops to fields. Cost of aerial application is around $15 - $20 an acre plus seed costs. This may seem costly to farmers but when labor, time, equipment and fuel is added together along with the option to use more cover crop species, the cost is comparable.

A challenge to aerial application is proper seeding time prior to crop harvest. Michigan State University Extension in cooperation with the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, the Corn Marketing Program and Al’s Aerial Spraying, LLC have established two soybean and two corn demonstration plots on two farms. Four cover crop species: annual ryegrass, cereal rye, oilseed radish plus oats mix and annual ryegrass plus crimson clover mix were planted on four different days with the final application during the demonstration. Cover crop seed counts were taken to measure how many seeds made it through the canopy and reached the soil. A demonstration of aerial application as well as plot tours will be held on Sept. 13, 2012 at Phillips Orchards & Cider Mill 1174 W. Gratiot County Line Rd. St. Johns, MI 48879. Registration will start at 9 a.m. A hog roast luncheon will be provided.

For more information about cover crops or the aerial demonstration contact Christina Curell, 231-745-2732.

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