Precision Covers Save Seed Costs

Covered ground versus bare ground is something of beauty and flat-out works great, says Tim Recker in regard to how he plants and manages cereal rye. ( Photos Provided by Tim Recker )

Corn is out and Tim Recker is in, planting cereal rye and cutting his cover crop seed costs by 50%. The Iowa farmer shuns a drill or broadcast and opts for the precision of a planter and metered cereal rye. Precision, seed-to-soil contact, savings and a beautiful green carpet.

Farming in Fayette County, Recker uses an interplanter on 15" rows. All told, he estimates $10 per acre in planting costs. “The system is just incredible. [My fields] look like a lawn after seeding,” he explains.

Recker began experimenting with cover crops in 2012, searching for the best fit and management for his ground. He says nothing compares with the efficiency of metered cereal rye and he hopes to plant 560 acres this year.

In 2014, Recker’s neighbor, Tim Burrack, wanted to switch from 30"-row soybeans to 15" rows, and traded for a 1790 John Deere interplanter, capable of handling either setup. The 1790 vacuum metered planter came standard with corn and soybean disks, but Burrack and Recker had a shared eye on cover crops.

“Critics can say the planter is a $120,000 machine and too expensive. But everyone needs a planter anyhow, and this one covers 40' and loads of acres,” Recker says.

After buying an extra disk specific to cereal rye from SeedRight, both producers say the planting system has been transformative.

As soon as seed corn comes off, Recker immediately grabs the available planting window, prior to removal of commercial corn and soybeans. However, he has had success with planting as late as November.

Using RTK, Recker places cereal rye in the same A-B lines used for his corn crop, generally with a seed rate of 25 lb. per acre, roughly half the recommended 50 lb. to 55 lb. Recker hopes to plant 560 acres of cereal rye yet in 2018, and the savings is significant on $13-per-pound seed.

In spring, Recker doesn’t terminate before planting green. He jumps over 7.5", straddles the rye row and plants down the middle with corn or soybeans. He never moves a rye plant and always plants in black dirt.

Burrack is equally enthusiastic. He planted 1,600 acres of cereal rye in 2017. “The biggest reason I plant cereal rye this way has to do with money,” Burrack explains. “I’m close to retirement, but after 46 years I’m changing the way I farm.”

All tallied, Recker estimates cover crops cost him just under $20 per acre. What does he get in return? Since 2014, he says soybean yields have jumped 5 bu. to 7 bu. every year (excluding a negligible bump in 2017), an increase he attributes entirely to cover crops. Even bigger, according to Recker, is a leap in erosion control.

Recker’s perspective is precision planting cover crops is a “no-brainer” that requires a change in mindset. “I can only say what works on my ground. For me, precision cereal rye is worthy and year after year, the results are awesome.”