Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for crimson clover production will vary by production stage and the crimson clover’s purpose as a cover crop. The following discussion describes machinery and equipment options for raising crimson clover 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. The machinery and equipment needs are similar to those of grass or grain.

For crimson clover planting, producers can choose from a drill or broadcast seeder. To establish the best stand at a given seeding rate, producers should first prepare a firm seedbed and then drill seed at the appropriate planting depth. If using a broadcast seeder, a light disking after planting will improve the seed’s contact with the soil. Pre-planting, mowing may be necessary if producers plant crimson clover in fields with already-established grass.

With regard to crop maintenance, producers may fertilize the crimson clover growing area. Although crimson clover benefits from mowing and grazing – they may encourage crop growth and decrease lodging potential – note that the crop can be sensitive. To avoid stressing crimson clover, ensure that it maintains at least a 3- to 5-inch height.

To kill crimson clover, producers may consider mechanical or chemical methods. Because crimson clover has a simple taproot root structure, producers may easily kill crimson clover by mowing. Producers can mow crimson clover after its early bud stage and kill the crop. Using a moldboard plow, producers may also mechanically kill crimson clover. As an alternative to the mechanical methods, spraying crimson clover with herbicide can kill it. After killing a crimson clover cover crop, the field may benefit from being mowed or flailed before planting another crop. A moldboard plow or disk can incorporate crop residues.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Crimson Clover by Production Stage

Establishment Maintenance Termination
Tractor X X X
Drill X
Broadcast seeder X
Tandem disk X
Fertilizer spreader X
Mower X X
Chemical sprayer X
Moldboard plow X
Disk 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 crimson clover 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
Mower $15.10 $16.38
Chemical sprayer $3.70 $5.98
Moldboard plow $33.10 $17.73
Disk $14.60 $15.80

Cavigelli, Michel A., Todd E. Martin and Dale R. Mutch. 2010. Crimson Clover. Michigan State University. Centreville, MI 49032.

Clark, Andy, ed. 2007. Managing Cover Crops Profitably. Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education. College Park, MD 20742-6715.

Cover Crop Database. n.d. Crimson Clover. University of California. Davis, CA 95618.

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 2012. Machinery Cost Estimates: Summary. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Urbana, IL 61801.

Eleveld, Bart, Tom Silberstein, Nicole Anderson, Bill Young and Ryan Siegel. 2010. Enterprise Budget, Crimson Clover Seed, Willamette Valley Region. Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR 97331.

Plain, Ronald L. and Joyce White. 2012. 2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65211.

Sattell, Robert, ed. 1998. Using Cover Crops in Oregon. Oregon State University Extension. Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR 97331.

Stiles, Scott and Terry Griffin. n.d. Estimating Farm Machinery Costs. University of Arkansas. Little Rock, AR 72204.