Interseeding in Ridge-till
Vaill Farm, in Aurora, NY, has been owned and operated by Norm Vaill since 1977. The farm is about 200 acres, with 150 acres in soybean and corn. Norm practices ridge-till farming due to the poorly to moderately-well drained soil on his land. Norm said that the soil was nearly destroyed and ridge-till farming was the remedy.
In the past Norm has used rye and oats as a cover crop, planted using hand or aerial seeding. The benefit of aerial seeding is protecting the cash crop from disturbance by equipment. A disadvantage that Norm saw with the aerial seeding was a lack of uniform coverage.
The cover crops were interseeded on August 8, 2013 on 0.83 acres at soybean growth stage R4-R5. Cover crops were: ryegrass (‘KB Royal’ at 20 lb/ac), a legume mixture (hairy vetch, red clover, and crimson clover at 45 lb/ac), a grass-legume mixture (ryegrass, hairy vetch, red clover, and crimson clover at 32.5 lb/ac), and tillage radish (10 lb/ac). Soybeans were harvested on October 9, 2013. Biomass samples of the cover crops were taken on November 19, 2013. The cover crops established well despite the challenges faced with interseeding between the ridge-till soybeans. “There was extremely heavy rain before the interseeding, so it leaned the beans over and the InterSeeder ran over some of the beans,” Norm said. Norm believes that with the addition of a divider and crop shields on the front wheels of the InterSeeder, running over low-hanging beans can be prevented.
In Norm’s ridge-till system he saw soil health improvement benefits from using the InterSeeder. Norm liked the idea of having cover crops on his soil in order to build organic matter and stabilize soil. He discussed the benefits of different cover crops on his corn and soybean rotational system: “[When you] cover crop for soybeans, a grass is fine because you are going to use beans next. If you are doing it on corn the clover will help with the nitrogen.” Due to the challenges Norm already faces with the soil drainage on his farm, improving soil quality with cover crops could be greatly beneficial.
Competition for light resources between the cash crop and the cover crop was one of Norm’s concerns with the InterSeeder, “My goal is to have the ground completely shaded; for cover crops you don’t quite want that. If the ground is completely shaded then it is using 100% of the sunshine for the crop.” However, this issue can be prevented if the cover crop is established early enough in the cash crop growth cycle.
When asked about what type of cover crop Norm thinks would be beneficial to his farm, he said, “Radish and oat mix might be a good cover crop. The oats would help hold the soil better and have a fine root system. And the radish gives you that taproot.” Although there are challenges using the InterSeeder in a ridge-till soybean crop, Norm sees potential with the InterSeeder for early cover crop establishment and the improvement of soil health.