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21. John Stewart – Innovative Approaches to Cover Crop Seeding

Cover crops, Farmer programs

It’s no secret that, when it comes to cover crop seeding, farmers are always trying to balance a tight timeline and impending weather in the fall. Especially during wet or cold autumns, getting into the field in a timely manner after cash crop harvest – and being able to give your cover crop enough time to germinate and emerge before winter – can be a challenge.

But what if you could streamline processes by planting your cover crop while you are already in the field doing other things?

In this episode of The People of Soil Health Podcast, host John Mesko sits down with SHP Field Manager John Stewart to discuss a new project in Kentucky seeking to answer that exact question.

“A lot of farmers buy their cover crop seed and have a great goal of getting harvest done earlier and being able to get out there and drill it in or broadcast it in or maybe apply it with a VT tool,” Stewart says. “But farmers understand how tight timing is in the fall and that window closes very rapidly.”

In order to help farmers save time and reduce passes across the field, SHP is studying new and different approaches to cover crop seeding. The project is funded by a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) and done in partnership with Kentucky NRCS and The Nature Conservancy. Stewart says the partners are really focused on the “innovation” part of the CIG program.

“We wanted to take a look at cover crop seeding methods that might be a little bit different than what a lot of farmers are doing,” he says. “Each farmer is different with their goals. A few of these trials are going to be looking at seeding cover crops with a cover crop seeder unit that’s actually mounted on the combine [body]. One of the farmers has a focus of a good amount of biomass for livestock grazing. And some of the others are more looking at the erosion side, getting a cover crop established pretty quickly to help [reduce erosion].”

To hear more about the details of the SHP program in Kentucky and the data we are collecting, listen to the full episode of The People of Soil Health in the player above or in your favorite podcast player.