Residents in parts of Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren Counties may spot some low-flying aircraft over neighboring corn and soybean fields in the coming days. Aerial application of cover crop seed is scheduled to begin the week of Monday, August 29th. The process, which takes 3 to 4 days, is weather dependent. The operation will be delayed if rainy or high wind conditions exist.
This is the third year that aerial seeding is being done in these areas, part of a project being funded by a partnership between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council.
NJRCD Agricultural Outreach Specialist Christian Bench, who coordinates the effort with local farmers said, “With the right conditions for germination, the seeding will produce a hardy cover for the fields this winter. Last year we got spectacular coverage from the seeding, and we are hoping for a repeat of those conditions this year.”
Cover crops help reduce soil erosion, capture nutrients, build organic matter, and overall help improve the health of the soil. “Initial results after one year of cover crop suggest improvements in both physical and chemical properties in the upper surface layer of the soil on many of the participating farms,” NRCS State Soil Scientist Richard Shaw said.
NRCS soil scientists are monitoring the soil quality in these fields over several years to assess changes in the soil conditions as a means of measuring benefits from using cover crops.
The special fixed-wing aircraft designed specifically for this purpose, called “air tractors,” have special holding bays and very powerful engines that allow them to fly low and with great precision to apply the cover crop seeds. Downstown Aero Crop Services, Vineland, NJ, the same company that did the seeding the last two years, will be applying cover crops like tillage radish, ryegrass, and clover.
No pesticides or fertilizers are being applied during this operation.
(Photo Credit: USDA)