Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for hairy vetch production will vary by production stage and the hairy vetch’s purpose as a cover crop. The following discussion describes machinery and equipment options for raising hairy vetch 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 depicts possible machinery options for each stage. To establish hairy vetch, producers may use a drill or broadcast seeder. Preparing a good seedbed and seeding with a drill lead to a lower suggested seeding rate. A drill also provides more uniformity. If using broadcast seeding, then lightly disking afterward will improve the seed’s contact with the soil. If the seedbed has packed soil, substantial crop residues or rough features, then plowing or cultivation may be necessary before planting.

Hairy vetch maintenance may involve applying fertilizer. However, note that nitrogen or manure applications don’t usually benefit hairy vetch because they encourage growth of grasses or small grains that may compete with the hairy vetch crop for resources.

When terminating hairy vetch, producers may incorporate the crop into the soil, which benefits from the added nitrogen, or leave the residue as green mulch, which helps to control weeds and preserve soil moisture. Because hairy vetch grows to be tall and vine-like, it can tangle, wrap around implements and make tillage challenging. Before integrating residues into the soil, mowing with a flail mower or rotary mower may help to manage the plant material. Mechanical control options that don’t require mowing first include using a rotovator, heavy disk harrow or power spader. Moldboard plows also effectively terminate and incorporate residues, but the process may negatively affect soil structure.

Producers have several other options to remove hairy vetch. Closely mowing as the crop flowers may terminate it. A roller/crimper used as hairy vetch flowers may eradicate the crop. For best results, use a roller/crimper when at least three-quarters of hairy vetch has flowered. Chemical application using a systematic herbicide is an alternative.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Hairy Vetch by Production Stage

Establishment Maintenance Termination
Tractor X X X
Drill X
Broadcast seeder X
Tandem disk X
Fertilizer spreader X
Rotary mower X
Chisel plow X
Moldboard plow X
Roller/crimper X
Chemical sprayer 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 hairy vetch 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
Rotary mower $15.10 $16.38
Chisel plow $14.50 $15.23
Moldboard plow $33.10 $17.73
Roller/crimper $4.33 N/A
Chemical sprayer $3.70 $5.98

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Bohnert, Catherine. 2011. Hairy Vetch Cover Crop Guide. Jefferson Institute. Columbia, MO 65201.

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

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

Duiker, Sjoerd W., William S. Curran and Robert S. Gallagher. 2010. Hairy Vetch as a Crop Cover. Penn State Extension. University Park, PA 16802.

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