Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for cereal rye production will vary by production stage and its purpose as a cover crop. The following discussion describes machinery and equipment options for raising cereal rye as a cover crop, and it approximates costs incurred from operating the necessary machinery and equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Cover crop production has three primary production stages: establishment, maintenance and termination. The following table illustrates machinery choices for each stage. Before seeding, producers may choose whether to cultivate the field. Planting cereal rye typically involves drilling or broadcasting the seed. Calibrating seeding equipment to plant at the desired depth is important. Broadcast seeding, which requires higher seeding rates, works best if light disking or cultipacking follows seeding. Using broadcast or aerial methods, producers may seed cereal rye before harvesting the preceding crop.

Maintaining cereal rye as a cover crop involves relatively little investment. Depending on residual nitrogen available in the soil, cereal rye may respond well to a nitrogen fertilizer application. Because cereal rye produces its own allelopathic compounds, it controls weeds.

To terminate cereal rye, producers have several options, including mowing, plowing, disking, applying herbicide and rolling/crimping. Effective termination depends on timing. To kill cereal rye by mowing, cut cereal rye when it flowers. A sickle bar mower works well. If cereal rye hasn’t flowered, then mowing may lead to further growth. If incorporating cereal rye with tillage, terminate the crop when crop is 12 inches to 18 inches tall. At lower heights, the cereal rye may attempt regrowth, and at higher heights, nitrogen in the crop mass may be less available, and too much plant volume may be difficult to incorporate. The timing should also attempt to reduce allelopathic compounds from hindering the next crop.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Cereal Rye by Production Stage

Establishment Maintenance Termination
Tractor X X X
Drill X
Broadcast seeder X
Tandem disk X
Fertilizer spreader X
Sickle mower X
Chemical sprayer X
Moldboard plow X
Disk X
Roller/crimper X
Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

When considering crop production machinery and equipment needs, producers may use owned equipment or hire a custom provider. The decision will depend on an operation’s current machinery and equipment inventory, operator time available and the difference in cost. The following table compares projected costs for the two scenarios. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment used in cereal rye production.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Acre Per Year

Machinery Cost Custom Rate
Drill $16.40 $16.75
Broadcast seeder $6.90 $12.45
Tandem disk $12.60 $12.74
Fertilizer spreader $4.00 $5.34
Sickle mower $17.60 $9.40
Chemical sprayer $3.70 $5.98
Moldboard plow $33.10 $17.73
Disk $14.60 $15.80
Roller/crimper $4.33 N/A

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