Cumberland County’s new program will use drones to spread seed covered crops on participating farms | The guard: news

William Chain is a partner at Swift Aeroseed LLC, which received a research grant to test whether seeds scattered from a drone can create a root system to prevent erosion and add nutrients to the soil during the winter.

“We are eager to share this with the county,” Chen said. “I know the county is thinking ahead. I think, in the future, there will be more farmers seeding for cover crops. The drone will have a role to play in that.”

Cover crops are hardy plants like wheat, rye and barley that are used not only as a food source, but also as ground cover to protect the soil from wind runoff and rainwater, said Charles Heberleigh III, a technician in the Chesapeake Bay. Establishment.

If successful, Heberlig said, the drones would enable participating farmers to plant their fields earlier in the year — improving the chances of establishing a cover crop in time to reap the benefits.

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“Cover crops are usually planted after the corn has been removed for fodder,” said district manager Karl Guschurn. “There are no plants left in the field. That is why the cover crop is planted.”

One goal of the research is to determine if cover crop seeds spread from the drone can germinate in fields already occupied by corn and soybean plants so that there is a strong start-up in the growth level.

“The drone replicates what is done with aircraft in the Midwest and, to some extent, the eastern shore of Maryland,” Chen said. “The way is to get the cover crop to grow before the cash crop is harvested.”

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If timed correctly, cover plants sprout close to the ground just as larger plants are ready to be removed. The idea is to overlap the growth cycle to increase the level of nutrients in the soil.

“Where we can broadcast this early, we can put in a multi-species seed mix that creates a more nutritious benefit to the soil,” Chen said. He said the drone is a safer and more practical alternative to aircraft, especially in Pennsylvania where farms tend to be surrounded by trees or located near residential projects.

“There are a lot of good benefits, but we don’t know how good it is [cover crop seeds] Goshorn said.

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Using parts imported from China, Swift Aeroseed has invented a prototype octocopter capable of carrying about 70 pounds of seed in a hopper, Chen said. The design includes a valve that is driven by spreader-feeding motors that can distribute the seeds over a 60-foot area. The drone is programmed to fly in a predetermined path and has guarantees to stay within a designated area and to land in the event of an emergency.

“It flies at 12 miles per hour at 20 feet off the ground,” Chen said. “It is capable of planting one acre per minute. The operators have to be in close proximity to the drone all the time.”

For each test of the drone and its systems, Chin said, there will be a flight crew of at least two specialists as required by the FAA. He said one person would monitor the drone while the other person would have constant access to the flight controls.

Goschorn said the conservation area plans to identify farmers willing to participate in the pilot program. He said using the drone could help farmers save time and money on fuel and equipment maintenance costs.

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Goschorn said the pilot could begin as early as mid- to late September. He said Cumberland County, with its cost-sharing program, is already a leader in promoting cover crop cultivation among local farmers.

A subdivision of state government, employed in a conservation area are district officers who run programs that provide technical assistance to farmers on best practices, inspect and monitor earth-moving activities on construction sites, provide environmental education to local school districts, and sell tree seedlings and rain barrels to protect the county’s natural resources Cumberland.

Joseph Criss is a reporter for The Sentinel covering education and history. You can reach him at [email protected] or by calling 717-218-0022.

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