There are several benefits of relay cropping. It ensures cover crop, captures nutrients in the soil, reduces surplus nitrogen, reduces runoff in the winter, protects soil from wind and water erosion, can become a natural fertilizer, saves harvesting time, and left over cover crops can double as forages for farm animals and wild deer.
No Tillage Production
Modern corn production tactics are being adopted to help mitigate the impact of corn and soy production on soil and water resources. One of these tactics is no till production, which involves not plowing or cultivating between crops in the fields. This method reduces the potential for soil erosion, conserves soil moisture, and reduces the energy associated with corn production.
Benefits of Having Cover Crops
Figure 2. Roots of inter seeded clovers after harvest.
The establishment of cover crops following harvest has been promoted to minimize runoff and plant nutrient losses from either residual amounts of fertilizer or from animal manure applications made to the field following harvest. The growth of cover crops is often limited by the late fall harvest of the corn crop in some areas, which leaves little growing season for crops such as clover or rye-grass to become established. This method of combining the three operations (spraying, fertilizing and seeding a cover crop) and performing them in a no-till field is novel and will reduce the cost and energy associated with multiple trips while facilitating these environmentally sound sound practices. The method also facilitates the establishment of cover crops in regions where the growing season is too short or the corn harvest is too late in the fall to allow for successful establishment of cover crop following harvest.
The interseeder utilizes strip or zone tillage technology between corn rows to prepare a 16 inch wide seedbed between each row, broadcasts the cover crop seed across this area, and then incorporates the seed and packs the soil with a packing assembly. At the same time, a post-emergent herbicide is applied to the field for weed control and a liquid nitrogen fertilizer application is strategically directed just off the side of the corn row to maximize the effectiveness.
Currently, the most widely used method for farms to increase crop yield is to till and utilize significant amounts of chemical fertilizer and herbicides. This technique, while good for crop yield is detrimental to soil quality and the local environment. The interseeder is positioned to become a standard for farmers located along the Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. The main drivers for using this technology is to: 1) naturally improving soil quality; 2) it helps farm operations be more compliant with regulations; and 3) saves money for farmers. The apparatus can be attached to most existing tractors and can be built from 4 rows to 12 rows.
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