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This page contains text and illustrations with regard to the machinery for soil preparation and sowing/planting of cover crops AND sowing /planting in dead or living mulches. Both machinery currently in use and commercially available, as well as new developments are presented.

Machines used in the experiments

The machinery used in the Multi-environment experiment is designed and produced by Friedrich Wenz (ecodyn). The pictures below show the machines in different settings and equipped with various metering systems and soil-engaging tools.

Interesting reading

Please use Ctrl-Click to open a link to a website or publication; this way it will open in a new window, so it will not take you away from the wiki-website.

The most comprehensive source of information on planting/seeding equipment and tools is found in this document, containing information on the basic components of basically all types of planters and sowing machines for grains and pulses. This report is prepared by the Ross Murray and co-workers from the University of Queensland and published by ACIAR, the Australian Organization for International Agricultural Research

This FAO/IAPARpublication gives a complete overview of the no-till system as applied in the southern parts of Brasil, with strong emphasis on the machinery used, written by scientists from IAPAR, the Agricultural Research Organization of the state of Paraná

This is the original Portugese version of the publication.


This paper gives details of Brazilian manual seeders and information on manufacturers.

Machinery, Implements, Tools

As stated in the description, the OSCAR project aims to develop improved conservation tillage systems, based on subsidiary crops (or cover crops), used both as living and dead mulch. This implies that in such a system, duration of soil coverage by plant canopies should be maximized, and the need for soil tillage and/or its intensity be minimized. These new systems can only successfully be used when appropriate machines are available. Therefore, special attention has to be given to:

  • tillage equipment which is able to achieve the required soil / field condition efficiently
  • sowing and planting equipment which is
    • able to place the seeds (both from the main crop as well as from the subsidiary crop) at the right spot at the right depth in the soil, preferably in one pass, and
    • is able to do this in a field situation where the soil structure is not optimized for sowing, in the presence of a previous crop (residues) and other vegetation (weeds)
  • equipment able to change the condition of vegetation in the field in order to retain its protective function, but allowing new crops to be sown or planted, so this can be (mechanical) weed control equipment or tools flattening or mulching cover crops.

New developments!!

In the first section some recent developments with respect to systems, technology and machines for sowing and associated tillage will be presented and in the seconf section attention will be paid to the possibilities offered by electronics, sensor technology etc. resulting in automation and robotization.

New ideas and machines in the sector

Variable rate application and different products handling SMART Seeder CX-6

This Canadian machine incorporates new technological developments in a modern no-till seeding. Seeding and fertilization is done while products are handled separately. A Variable Rate delivery system applies precise rates for up to 6 different products independently at each opener spanning the entire drill. Ctrl-click on the picture to visit the website


Planting cover crops in the late-summer when maize is fully mature, before the harvest. This is an important alternative, but technically not easy.

Special ways of sowing cover crops in a mature crop, burning a sprayer into cover crop seeding machinery Click on the picture below to see the website of a sprayer company offering special equipment

Hagie cci.JPG

Other initiatives in the USA: see these links[[1]] [[2]]

This link will lead you to a Dupont - Pioneer website. [[3]]

The Pöttinger Multiline is a combination of a compact disc harrow and a seed drill in one machine.

Pottinger synkro.JPG

Row guard from Eeinböck is an automatic camera steering system for mechanical weed control between the rows. The camera steering system guides row-crop cultivator with absolute precision, even at high speeds. The setting of the row configurations (row spacing, number of rows, etc.) is simply done from the tractor cab. The image is scanned to find the higher concentrations of green pixels relating to the crop rows and, using prior knowledge of the row configuration, overlay a matching grid onto the image. This information is then utilised to bring the equipment onto the exact row centres via a hydraulic side-shift. The system is used in various green crops, regardless of row spacing, number of rows, etc.

Einbock rowguard.JPG

The AEROSTAR-ROTATION from Einböck is a rotative weeder with high flexibility in use. The spiderwheels are very insensitive to organic residues, so well suited for mulch-tillage.


Strip till with fertilizing and seeding. With the Horsch Focus TD for strip cultivation: soil is cultivated only in the seed rows. The machine combines deep soil loosening, fertiliser placement, seedbed preparation and sowing in one pass in the strip where the crop will be.

Horsch TD.JPG

LEMKEN Working depth guidance for contour adjustment of semi mounted cultivators with traction assistance solves the problem that semi-mounted cultivators often don’t work deep enough in depressions and too deep on hills. Manual adjustment requires a lot of sensitivity of the driver. With the rotation point in the frame behind the working section and an additional hydraulic ram LEMKEN now offers a simple solution for their semi-mounted Karat cultivator with traction increase unit. Load transmission from the traction increase unit to the tractor is thus further optimised.

Lemken Contour.jpg


Electronic sowing is offered eg. by Lemken [[5]]

Automatic coulter pressure control; perfect seed delivery every time.

Crop uniformity and germination percentage are particularly dependent on the quality of the seed placement. A uniform sowing depth for the seed is a key factor. Automatic coulter pressure control, from Lemken, ensures the precise placement even under changing conditions, e.g. when soil changes from heavy to light and back. This control system is independent from any changes in forward speed.

Lemken Solitair.JPG

EDX precision airplanter Air seeder technology with operational speeds of 10 to 15 km/h. [[6]]

Cenius mounted mulch cultivator Wide range of application from shallow stubble work to topsoil loosening adjusted to nearly every local condition. The four stagger tine arrangement and large underframe clearance are important by working with last year’s crop residues and soil without interruption Conventional seed drill also for mulch sowing. Working widths of 2,5 and 3 meter. Small and medium farms.

Amazone GreenDrill for catch crop sowing (2335) Precision metering by proven full electric metering ensures a precise setting of the seed rate you can rely on. (1285)

Agrisem combines disc harrowing with seeding; the harrow has two rows of discs with different diameters. The first disc has a larger diameter that enables the first row to go through the stubble and crop residues easily, while the second row makes the seeding bed finer.

Agrisem discomulch.JPG

Seeding is done by dropping off the seeds in front of the second row of discs. The flow of earth thrown by this second row will cover the seeds. It enables to sow regularly in stony conditions because there are no seeding elements in the soil.

Agrisem recover.JPG

An interesting project is reported from Australia; the SANTFA (South Australian No-Till Farmers Association) has been working on improving the system of creating a furrow for sowing in undisturbed surface conditions by using water jets to cut into the soil, as an alternative to disks or chisels. Using UHP (Ultra High Pressure), a slot is cut through the crop residues and the soil. Advantages are that there is much less of a problem with straw and stubble blocking the soil engaging tools, but the technology is as yet not developed far enough for commercial application. More information can be found in these articles: and here:


News | Precision Planting | Improve Seed Spacing & Depth Control

Machinery producers

Below is a (incomplete) list of European and overseas companies producing agricultural equipment which may be of interest to the readers of this wiki.

This is not an endorsement or recommendation of these specific companies, it is merely an overview of what the market has to offer! The list is in random order.




USA / Canada


FERRARI COSTRUZIONI MECCANICHE S.R.L. - FERRARI transplanting machine working on not tilled soil.

A list of the website addresses of manufacturers of sowing equipment:

Interesting developments shown on Youtube:

In the Multi-Environment Experiment in Mediterranean environment, where cover crop - summer vegetable sequences, the hay mower and transplanter machines are designed and produced by Marangon and Ferrari, respectively, in order to cultivating the summer vegetable crops in no-tillage conditions.

Design and implementation of a modular system to test different solutions for cover crop suppression and vegetable transplanting

The vegetable cultivation in conservation agriculture represents one of the main challenges in horticulture. When the plastic mulches are replaced with organic residues deriving from the cover crops, the cover crop aboveground biomass should be placed on the soil surface uniformly in order to provide good full soil coverage for the whole vegetable season. With the aim of mechanizing the system a modified hay mower machine can be adopted for arranging the cover crop biomass in mulch strips to be used as transplanting beds for vegetables. A conventional hay mower by the Marangon Company (MDN170) was modified for converting cover crop biomass into organic mulch strips. The following modifications were applied: a) a cutter bar was extended by 10 cm from 170 to 180 cm in order to have a cutter side which met the needs of the transplanter (Fig. 1); b) the blades of the disks were extended of 1.25 cm in order to assure a uniform cut; (Fig. 2); c) a rear double-disc was added in order to distribute the cover crop mulches uniformly across a space of 90 cm (Fig. 3).


Vegetable crops have been cultivated using conventional tillage practices. However, no-till systems have recently been successfully used for many crops and no-tillage practices should also be introduced for cultivating vegetable crops. Therefore a conventional tomato transplanter made by Ferrari Company (model FMAX) was modified for using in no-till conditions and in presence of mulch on soil surface. The following modifications were made to a Ferrari FMAX vegetable transplanter: a) a front disc in order to slice the organic mulch and to loosen the soil without inverting the layers (Fig. 1); b) a regulator of soil depth for front disk (Fig. 2); c) a rear double-disc opener in order to open the soil in the trench created by the front disc (Fig. 3); d) a modified closing wheels to increase down pressure in order to close the slits created in the organic mulch and the soil by the discs (Fig. 4).

Transplanter modifications.jpg

Testing and improving implements for cover crop killing, formation of mulch layers, and vegetable transplanting

Test field has been realized with relevant cover crops of the Mediterranean environment (legume, cruciferae, cariophyllaceae), in order to check the functionality of the existing machinery than could be successfully adopted for the mulch formation from the cover crop aboveground biomass. Based on the pre-testing results, the Italian partners decided to adopt for the Multi Environment Experiments (MEE I and II) the Marangon side mower machine. Side mower coupled to the tractor through the three point linkage. The cutting height adjustment is done by recording the third point. The mower is equipped with a suspension that acts on the whole bar reducing the cutting bar usury. The pivot point of the security system is located on the rudder and allows an adequate setback in case of collision with obstacles even at high speeds. The parallelogram lift allows you to handle the mower while working only with the lifting piston avoiding that the shoe touches the ground. A simple acting cylinder allows you to place the mower in a vertical position for the road transport. The mower also has a Kit swaths squeeze and a disc with cone on the right side. The side mower machine showed a satisfactory results in terms of formation of mulch layers, even if in some cover crops characterized from an high production of cover crop aboveground biomass and high canopy, the side mower tend to bind the mowers struggles and showed some difficulties to release the cover crop biomass for the formation of an homogeneous mulch, which is needed in order to allow a complete soil cover and avoiding the early emergence of weeds. For this concern has been realized an agronomical solution. In fact, it was planned to realize a mulch layer of 100 cm (20 cm in more to than planned initially), this modification could be easily done by the set up of the side mower. An wider mulch layer, the mower machine work without the above mentioned problems, and from an agronomical point of view there are a more soil covered by the mulch, thus less weeds should be observed.

In the 1st cycle of the Multi Environment Experiment (MEE) carried out at the experimental farm of Tuscia University (2014 year), a tomato crop was transplanted using a prototype of transplanter built by Ferrari Company. The prototype consisted in a system which used a disk for cutting the mulch layer, and for opening a furrow where to drop the vegetable seedlings (The transplanter showed a satisfactory operation. However when the mulch layer was particularly dense (heavy cover crop residues) there were several problems for cutting the mulch. These problems have caused a drag at the disks. Considering these partially satisfactory results a new prototype has been developed. The new machine, based on the same idea of the previous transplanter (disk system), has been implemented with a rigid disk installed in front to ensure the cutting of the mulch layer and to avoid the dragging problems. Moreover a second unit was added to the machine in order to transplant two paired rows at the same time. However, the double line of transplanting requires more strength for cutting the mulch layer and transplanting the seedlings into the soil, therefore a water tank has been installed for adding weight to the machine and assuring the functionality in all conditions. Although, the water tank could contain 1 t of water, the amount of water should be decided based on the soil conditions (humidity, texture, etc.). The new machine will be tested in the 2nd cycle of MEE.