Combining manure application and cover-crop operations could help with one of the biggest hurdles to cover-crop adoption, says Doug Bloom. “There’s a pretty small window to do it. Slurry seeding is a time saver.”

Doug and Bruce Bloom, Coldwater, MI, farmers, are working with Michigan State University Extension Ag Engineer Tim Harrigan to compare slurry-seeded rye stands with drilled or broadcast stands.

Slurry seeding isn’t the only way to integrate manure and cover crops.

The Blooms grow corn, soybeans, wheat, seed corn and processing tomatoes, and milk 580 cows. For a decade, they’ve used cover crops to control erosion, recycle nutrients and provide forage. They drill rye into both seed corn and corn silage ground after harvest. In the spring, they chop ryelage the first week of May, apply a burndown, then plant soybeans into the residue.

In fall 2010, they slurry seeded strips of cereal rye mixed with sand-laden dairy manure into an untilled corn silage field. For comparison, they drilled rye and then applied manure over the top of the seedbed with aeration tillage. They also broadcast rye in 40-ft. swaths, followed by shallow disking, roller packing and manure application over the top.

In the slurry-seeded plots, the Blooms’ sandy loam soil tended to backfill with aeration tillage, rather than fracturing, so there were fewer hospitable fissures for seed germination, Harrigan says. Nevertheless, slurry seeding produced “a very good rye cover,” Harrigan says.

The other seeding methods also produced excellent stands “even though we went over the top of the drilled and broadcast seeds with aeration tillage and manure on the same day,” Harrigan says. “This highlights the flexibility that farmers have to integrate manure and cover crops, regardless of their equipment set.”