Some farmers are finding success using a new process designed to streamline planting and improve germination of cover crops.
John Cobb, of Morganfield, Kentucky, developed the treatment a few years ago. He believes it has a bright future.
“This year we went 57 days without any rain. I was sure that it was a disaster,” he said. “To our surprise, that coating allowed it to stay viable and it came on this spring. Radishes, of course, didn’t, but the crimson clover and ryegrass came on.”
Cobb came up with the proprietary treatment while working for a national company, but has since left and formed his own business, H & H Heavy Cover Crop. He touts the product’s benefits.
“It does a number of things,” he said. “It allows for even distribution through a spreader truck. I specifically made it the same density as 9-23-30 (a fertilizer mix of nitrogen, phosphate and potash), which is a 55 density. You mix it in with your fall fertilizer. Whatever you spread on your field, you can spread this.”
Lloyd Murdoch, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky, performed a one-year trial on the coated seeds.
“We had a little bit better germination with the coated seed,” Murdoch said. “But the main advantage was being able to spread it easily.”
The coating gives the seeds more weight, which is a contributing factor to ease of planting.
Don Downen, who farms at Ridgway, Illiniois, in Gallatin County, coats ryegrass with it.
“When it’s coated it’s about as heavy as wheat,” said Downen, who has used it for a few years. “You can broadcast it evenly. With the other ryegrass it’s so light, it’s like throwing feathers.”
Murdoch also points out that the coating has the benefit of doing two things at once.
“Regular seeds are really light,” he said. “A lot of people like to have one trip over the field and do several things. It saves time and effort. If they put the fertilizer on for the next year, which is not uncommon in the fall, then they can put it on in the same density. That will easily spread. If not, most of the seed remains behind the truck. The fertilizer will go out, but the seeds wouldn’t.”
The seeds are broadcast with a spinner spreader.
“Usually all you can do is get about a 20-foot pattern with a slinger rig,” Downen said. “With this you can do 60 to 80 feet.”
While it is used extensively on ryegrass, it works well with other covers, according to Cobb.
“We use it with a brassica, a grass or a legume,” he said. “I’ve covered all three.”
Murdoch said the coating may allow some producers to try cover crops who otherwise wouldn’t have the planting window.
“If you’re putting on a cover crop after harvest, you run out of time for getting a good stand,” he said. “Once you get into November, the chances are you’re not going to get a good stand at all.”
Distribution is largely across parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, though it may expand. And Cobb believes his process may have benefits for things other than cover crop seeds.
“Something new we’re doing this year is working with biologicals, live bugs. It’s a perfect carrier, in my opinion, to add that in,” he said.