The Sharp Edge: Drone seeding cover crops into soybeans

James Hammerton is looking for innovative ways to increase crop production efficiency.

Hammerton, who farms with his family at Sweaburg, Ont., first appeared on The Sharp Edge in 2020 to share how he uses a stripper header to harvest and prepare wheat fields for double crop soybeans.

In 2023, he returns to the program with an innovative approach to seeding cover crops in standing soybeans. He’s attempting to establish a clover cover crop to gain a nitrogen credit for his following corn crop and increase nitrogen use efficiency.

On this episode, Hammerton tells Maizex Seeds agronomist Henry Prinzen how he hooked up with Drone Spray Canada to apply 10 pounds per acre of a clover/hairy vetch seed mix at a cost of about $50 per acre, including drone application. (Story continues after the video.)

Hammerton says he was impressed with the XAG drone, which measures 12 feet from tip to tip and seeds 25 acres per hour with the relatively light 10-pound rate. He notes that the cover crop was seeded a little later than his targeted 10-percent-leaf-drop timing but he’s hopeful he’ll see a nice cover establish in the spring.

Prinzen expects to see a big push in agriculture for drones as farmers look for ways to farm more efficiently. That includes cover crop seeding, fungicide application in corn and managing pockets of nutrient deficiency in fields. He also expects to see more farmers like Hammerton looking to the technology to better target inputs like nitrogen and reduce the amount of nitrogen required per bushel of crop production.

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