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What are good cover crop tractor attachments?

 
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Going to be broadcasting 1.5 tons of mixed seeds: cowpeas, pigeon peas, canavalia, moringa and castor bean.
The large plot, which is currently cow pasture will be prepared with subsoiler, 5 bottom plow, and disc harrow.

Would a second pass with the disc harrow be good enough to plant (partially bury) these mostly bean-sized seeds? Or would they maybe go too deep?

Also is there a seed spreader that can handle this mixture of different sized seeds?
 
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Windy Huaman wrote:Going to be broadcasting 1.5 tons of mixed seeds: cowpeas, pigeon peas, canavalia, moringa and castor bean.
The large plot, which is currently cow pasture will be prepared with subsoiler, 5 bottom plow, and disc harrow.

Would a second pass with the disc harrow be good enough to plant (partially bury) these mostly bean-sized seeds? Or would they maybe go too deep?

Also is there a seed spreader that can handle this mixture of different sized seeds?



I would think tilling the seed in with the disc harrow would go too deep. In that case by the time the seed germinated and emerged, it would be pretty cold and you would lose a lot of growth and benefit from your cover crop seeding.

I am extremely cheap, and do not have a seed drill yet so I broadcast seed with my fertilizer spreader. For different size seeds, I just spread twice: Once for the smaller seed with the spreader set at a small setting, then again with the bigger seed. Then to cover, I just use a log. I put a cable around the two ends, and drag it sideways over the surface. It kicks up enough soil to help cover the seed, but also helps further pack the soil.

I am sure big farmers laugh at my system, but I get good results.



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Covering Seed with a Log
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Seed Spreader
 
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I wonder if you might be able to mix your seeds in with a mulch or manure, and use a manure spreader to distribute them?

In my area I think would be more common to use something like a chain harrow or diamond harrow, after seeding, than discs. Something that will disturb the surface but not bury seeds too deep. A roller can also help..
 
Windy Huaman
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Dillon Nichols wrote:I wonder if you might be able to mix your seeds in with a mulch or manure, and use a manure spreader to distribute them?

In my area I think would be more common to use something like a chain harrow or diamond harrow, after seeding, than discs. Something that will disturb the surface but not bury seeds too deep. A roller can also help..



Okay, I was thinking about using a chain harrow, but am not sure if that would cause the seeds to contact the soil enough.

Originally I was thinking of using a landscape rake, but that looks like it would just trap the seeds amongst the debris in the teeth, and basically carry the seeds away.
 
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Wendy,

Respectfully, why a bottom plow?  Do you have a specific reason to turn the soil over and invert the top soil profile?  

The subsoiler is probably a good idea to fight compaction, let the soil breath and get water below the surface.  If the surface needs to be broken up to get the seeds into the soil, the disk harrow will do that.  I would substitute a second pass with the disk for a pass turning over the soil with a bottom plow.  Most seed is planted too deep.  Even bean sized seed should be less than 2 inches depending on the variety (most are fine at 1 inch.)  A disk will get you that deep.  A bottom plow gets much deeper than that.  Depending on the soil, between 6 to 10 inches.  That creates a problem with your microbes and soil biology.  It exposes them to too much sunlight and oxygen.  It does tend to kill all the vegetation to eliminate competition; but at what cost: decreased fertility, increased erosion, stimulating dormant seeds, extra tractor work...?  

It sounds like this mix will be an animal forage project.  I would double disk and roll or drag for good seed to soil contact.  Can you get access to a cultipacker?  A chain harrow might work if you added logs tires or bricks on top for increased weight.  If you are broadcasting seed, it can be done as long as the seed is mixed well and not allowed to settle in the hopper (don't let is sit.)  Throw it all in a large barrel and roll it around until it is mixed.  Load and go.  It won't be perfect, but it will save you from having to do separate passes for different sizes.

I would suggest taking a small (perhaps an acre depending on the size of your equipment) area and trying just the disk harrow and broadcaster.  Walk the area and look close at your distribution.  Then roll or drag and see if it covers and packs the seed to your satisfaction.  If it does not give you the results, go to work with the bottom plow.  Food for thought.  
 
Travis Johnson
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I really encourage people to consider my suggestion of using a log. I know it seems too simple and cheap, but it really works well, and here is why.

The log drags up dirt like a grader blade, but it is rounded, so as the log is pulled sideways through the dirt, it mixes dirt and seed, and then presses it downward with some weight. This is no different then a culterpacker. Its long length also smooths out the field, like how a wide grader blade cuts and fills over a wide width to make a smooth road. It works the same here.

It would seem like the log would make for patchy planting, picking up seed here, and depositing it there, but that is not how it works in application believe it or not. It actually gives your field a very consistent planting. Here is proof. This is that same 10 acre field above, planted in oats, clover and timothy...

The problem with a disc harrow is, unlike a log that presses the smaller rocks into the loose soil, a disc harrow brings them UPWARDS. It will eventually level a field, but you have to pick a lot of rocks in doing so...and I HATE picking rocks.

You do not have to spend money on equipment in order to plant a nice field. I am using bigger equipment because I have it, but just find a log that is fairly long that your tractor can pull. The wider and heavier the better.
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Random question: castor bean? You're talking about upland Peru, right? I'm at altitude in Brazil and that stuff is amazingly invasive, and the beasts won't eat it (some people say the foliage can make cattle sick, but i've never seen them touch it, maybe only if they're starving). i've been cultivating my space now for 8 years and I still have castor bean seedlings coming up from the plants that were here in the vacant lot before they built my house. If you ever want to use that land for something besides cover crop, you may spend a lot of time fighting with castor beans.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Travis Johnson wrote:I really encourage people to consider my suggestion of using a log. I know it seems too simple and cheap, but it really works well, and here is why.



Travis,

I am interested in your technique.  So I understand, you are not working the soil at all before you broadcast seed?  You have given me some new ideas to test.  Thank you.
 
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I really like the log idea. Wish we'd thought of that when we planted the sainfoin. We just used a grader/scraper to barely cover our seed. Worked great.
 
D Nikolls
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I've seen the log thing for levelling, but am having a hell of a time understanding how it wouldn't(didn't!) leave bare patches when seeding! Super counterintuitive...


When I eventually get to seeding something I'll give it a shot.. I've no shortage of junk logs!
 
Travis Johnson
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Jack Edmondson wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:I really encourage people to consider my suggestion of using a log. I know it seems too simple and cheap, but it really works well, and here is why.



Travis,

I am interested in your technique.  So I understand, you are not working the soil at all before you broadcast seed?  You have given me some new ideas to test.  Thank you.



Oh no, I plow, but I do not disk. You have to loosen the soil so you can flatten it, and kill the weeds.

I then "grade" the field by dragging the log over it. First going length ways, then at an angle, and then lengthways, etc. In this case I was using a 24 foot log, so it really levels the field over a wide surface (cuts and fills). But it does not take long to smooth a 10 acre field with a 24 foot wide "grader" (log). It also firms the soil.

I then pick the big rocks.

Then I sow with my fertizer spreader.

Then I grade the field again with the log, mixing and buring the seed as I do.

Here is a picture of the front side of the log while grading.



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Grading
 
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Windy Huaman wrote:Going to be broadcasting 1.5 tons of mixed seeds: cowpeas, pigeon peas, canavalia, moringa and castor bean.
The large plot, which is currently cow pasture will be prepared with subsoiler, 5 bottom plow, and disc harrow.

Would a second pass with the disc harrow be good enough to plant (partially bury) these mostly bean-sized seeds? Or would they maybe go too deep?

Also is there a seed spreader that can handle this mixture of different sized seeds?




All parts of the castor bean plant are poisonous to all creatures ( this is the plant that Ricin comes from) I would recommend you not plant those seeds, there will be added liabilities to consider.
Think of what would happen if a child got hold of even one of those castor beans (or any part of the plant for that matter) and ate it, or just cracked the seed coat.


The others are good cover crop plants, just be sure to leave out the castor.
Like others have brought up, the bottom plow is for killing soil and turning it into dirt, which means lots of extra work to get the newly created dirt back to soil.

Redhawk
 
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i used disk harrow to plant broadcast buckwheat, it worked great
 
bruce Fine
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buckwheat broadcast then harrowed in
buckwheat.jpg
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buckwheat field cover crop
 
Travis Johnson
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I have heard a lot that plowing (or tilling) is bad for the soil, but that has not been my experience at all. I think it depends on what is within the soil. In the Midwest where there is 1% organic matter and they till constantly and feed just NPK in high doses, yeah I can see where tilling would give the perception it is bad, but where I live, where we have fed the soil manure for years upon years, and the compost is at the saturation point of 6-8 percent, I see nothing but worms when I plow. It is to the point where flocks of birds stay just behind the plow picking out the night crawlers that emerge.

To that end I think crop rotation is really justified, and that will take tilling. But it breaks the disease cycle, aerates the soil, and if a landowner plants the right cover crop if it is a row crop or garden, or plant the right mix of grass seed if it is a field; a landowner will really do well. We have tried to do that crop rotation on a 7 year plan, and I think that is ideal.
 
Travis Johnson
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bruce Fine wrote:buckwheat broadcast then harrowed in



Mighty fine looking field there Bruce, and I am not an easy man to impress. (Pie awarded)
 
Windy Huaman
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Jack Edmondson wrote:Wendy,

Respectfully, why a bottom plow?  Do you have a specific reason to turn the soil over and invert the top soil profile?  

The subsoiler is probably a good idea to fight compaction, let the soil breath and get water below the surface.  If the surface needs to be broken up to get the seeds into the soil, the disk harrow will do that.  I would substitute a second pass with the disk for a pass turning over the soil with a bottom plow.  Most seed is planted too deep.  Even bean sized seed should be less than 2 inches depending on the variety (most are fine at 1 inch.)  A disk will get you that deep.  A bottom plow gets much deeper than that.  Depending on the soil, between 6 to 10 inches.  That creates a problem with your microbes and soil biology.  It exposes them to too much sunlight and oxygen.  It does tend to kill all the vegetation to eliminate competition; but at what cost: decreased fertility, increased erosion, stimulating dormant seeds, extra tractor work...?  

It sounds like this mix will be an animal forage project.  I would double disk and roll or drag for good seed to soil contact.



Bottom plow so the trees don’t get outcompeted by the grass on a 20 year old pasture. It’s too big an area to sheet mulch.
 
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