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Broadcasting by ground: This is the most popular and accurate seeding method and may be done using spinners, drop tubes or air pressure. The most critical factor is accurately metering seed before it is spread. Make sure the seeding pattern is appropriate for complete and even ground cover. Different seeds have varying spread patterns based on their respective weights, and heavier seeds spread further than lighter seeds. This can cause difficulties when heavier and lighter seed mixtures are applied. Broadcast seeders may be mounted on ATV’s, tractors, tillage tools or other implements.

Incorporation: Cover crop seeds produce better stands with shallow soil incorporation. Excellent results can be obtained by combining broadcast seeding with a cultivator or other incorporating tillage tool. The combination chosen depends on when seeding takes place and what management practices are in effect. Most cover crop seeds are very small and do not need much soil cover, just good seed-to-soil contact.

Seeding Methods

Frost-seeding: Seeding a cover crop into an established crop in late winter to very early spring. Example: Seeding red clover into wheat in March.

Here are a few helpful hints:

There are many variations on these methods. Watch different equipment in action on farms and at farm shows. Every piece of equipment is different, and individual farm needs depend on the management system in use.

The most common seeding method is drill seeding. This is the most often used reliable method because of seed placement and good seed to soil contact. A second method involves using a row crop planter. Row crop planters usually result in the best cover crop establishment due to the good seed soil contact, depth control and consistent seed spacing. Other methods include broadcast with or without shallow tillage, slurry manure seeding and frost seeding.

Each establishment method has advantages and disadvantages. Select the best method that fits your system and equipment that is readily available.

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This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit https://extension.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

If you would like to learn more about cover crops, how they can benefit your farm, or to find a cover crop educator, visit the Michigan State University Extension, MSU Extension Cover Crops website.