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Drone: New way to broadcast seed

Photo by Anna Hastert

Cover crops can be applied by overseeding, drilling or broadcasting.

A common seeding method is broadcasting with incorporation, which involves an airplane and other farm machinery. An Iowa-based company, however, looks to change how cover crops are applied, aerially.

Rantizo, based out of Iowa City, uses drones to disperse liquids and solids, placing them precisely. Micheal Ott, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rantizo, shares how this his technology is changing the cover crop landscape. 

“We’re seeing the need for cover crops increasing. We can (apply) them precisely,” Ott said.

Rantizo applied cover crop seed a couple weeks ago at Mitchell Hora’s farm, in east central Iowa. Ott says not only can this application be used for cover crops, but for problematic areas as well.

“We’re going between pretty wide rows and dropping in beneficial seeds. We’ve also been in fields that have wet spots, (as) this was a very wet year. We were able to map out those amorphous blobs, in the middle, that were too wet to plant, fly in and drop it precisely where it needs to go,” Ott said.

Mitchell Hora, founder of Continuum Ag, set-up a 60-row corn configuration, in an effort to better understand the differences and similarities of early planted and late planted cover crop seeds. The forty-acre plot, featuring multiple trials, serves as a learning opportunity.

“I planted two rows of 30-inch corn, then turned the third row off. Plant two, skip one. Essentially, I have 45-inches of corn, 45-inches of gap. Because of the gap, I want to make sure we have something growing out there,’ Hora said. “I have sunlight penetration through the canopy. It’s not fully shaded out, and I want to make sure I don’t have weeds. I don’t want to leave the soil bare…ever.”

Hora further discusses the practicality of this application method on his operation.

“Ideally, we would fly this cover crop on ahead of rain. Fly it on, have the seed there, get a little shot of rain and the seed will go,” Hora said. “For us, the seed will sit there and wait. That’s fine. There were some weeds growing, especially foxtail. We did spray it off with a shot of Roundup. The grasses out there now are going to dies down, shade and cover that seed. Maybe that will help us catch some dew and provide us a little bit of installation to get the cover crop to grow.”

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